Smooth Rider: Your 10 Commuting Essentials
Posted by The Editors on August 4, 2011
After two months of commuting into Philadelphia by train, I now understand why people carry briefcases and purses practically the size of Glad Trash Bags (yes, the big ones). It turns out these oversized bags—well, the contents within—make life a little easier. If you’re new to the commuting world, get yourself a spacious, sturdy bag to carry this list of the 10 most essential items every commuter should carry.
1. First-Aid Kit
Okay, I’m not talking the ones with gauze pads and the whole shebang. For me,
this means: a few sizes of regular Band-Aids, those handy Advanced-Healing
Blister Band-Aids, a travel packet of Neosporin, and some Advil.
For some reason, my ability to walk across a flat, stable surface without finding
something to trip over only lasted through high school. And I’d be thrilled to find
one pair of work-friendly shoes that don’t lead to blisters. In any case, don’t get
stuck with a cut or blister and no way to remedy it. Clean and cover those battle
2. Reading Material
My commute lasts approximately one hour, unless of course the train is feeling
irritable that day. Bringing along some reading material, whether a work-related
article, an e-book, or magazine, will certainly help get you through that extra
half-hour lag due to an unexpected delay. Forgot your latest issue of The New
York Times at home? No worries. Stations are flooded with abandoned
There have been many days where I’ve suffered from brain over-extension, in
which case I tune out the world and relax to the soft sounds of Norah Jones.
Word to the wise: Make sure you’re headphones are plugged in properly; not
everyone appreciates heavy metal. If you see anyone making the effort to turn
completely around to stare you down, it might be time to check the hardware. Be
respectful to those in your surroundings and turn down the volume.
Headphones are made for listening to music, but just as effective as holding a
neon sign that reads, “Do Not Disturb.” Not feeling particularly chatty today?
Don’t hesitate to put in those buds, even if nothing’s attached on the other end.
No one but you will know the difference.
5. Comfy Shoes
I used to envy people leaving the office in sneakers or flip-flops, but could never
bring myself to done a pair of sneakers with my work wardrobe. (I know, totally
ridiculous, but you just never know who you’ll run into!) One week and several
blisters later, I realized fashion would only get me so far—it’s my feet that have to
take me the rest of the way.
6. A Pocket-Sized Notebook
I like to carry around a small spiral notebook just in case a brilliant and profound
idea comes to mind. You never know where and when inspiration will hit!
7. A Lunch Box
Lunch boxes aren’t just for kindergarteners. I rediscovered this the first week of
my internship. Lunch in the city can cost a small fortune so save your pennies
and make a sandwich instead. I worried at first about lugging around an ugly,
heavy box, but was completely surprised to find some really cute, functional lunch
totes available at stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond and HomeGoods.
8. Travel Coffee Mug
Don’t go styrofoam unless desperate. Make one small change for the environment
by using a re-useable coffee cup, and you’ll also avoid ruining another commuter’s
morning. I’ve seen many people accidentally kick their cups over after placing it
on the floor, which inevitably results in a brown, sticky river flowing down the
aisle onto everyone else’s stuff. Don’t be that guy.
9. A Compact Umbrella
For the torrential downpour you didn’t see coming.
Just in case you want to catch some Z’s or avoid the blinding late-afternoon sun.