Random Subway Riders

Who are those people you see on the subway? Do their clothes and mannerisms reveal their true identity or is it more fun to guess?

I scribbled my guesses during a twenty-minute ride between Rockville and Chevy Chase two months ago and just found the notes in a pile of papers on my home desk. Here are my observations of three riders that got my attention that evening.

Self-conscious Girl.
What I saw: Quiet, shy, mid-20s, dark hair, average height, basic blue suit with an off-the-rack fit. She spent most of her time on Metro looking around but mostly avoided eye contact with anyone. She read the ad banners inside the car and the LED display of station names.

What I think: She is an administrative assistant in one of those drab, government office buildings in Rockville, Maryland and lives in Bethesda with two or three roommates because the rent is too high there to go solo on her salary. She is shy around guys but has had a boyfriend or two, but none now. Wants more in life but doesn’t know how to find it, yet. Self-esteem issues and lack of confidence hold her back but she has made progress on both fronts in recent years.

Active Grandma
What I saw: mid-60s, trim, fit, looks and dresses younger (except for the reading glasses halfway down her nose), moves with confidence. She was deep in her book for the whole ride.

What I think: She IS a grandma, divorced, lives alone, had money saved up for active, independent living but works part time at a book store. Lives alone but has many friends, two or more regular boyfriends, one is the age she looks and he doesn’t know hers.

Guy in the Hoodie
What I saw: Tall, white, upper 20s, wearing a hoodie like a 17-year-old, sitting across three seats (his two seats and the sideways-facing seat in front of him), drinking from an open cup (not allowed on Metro), music in his headphones so loud I can hear it five rows away.

What I think: Narcissistic. Dressing like “I’m not dangerous but don’t mess with me” to get some attention and to mask his day job as a suit-and-tie middle manager in an investment firm. He is going to a hot night club in a trendy DC entertainment area to score an equally pretentious girl. He exudes confidence but it’s part of his costumed persona. He’d probably pee in his pants if a taller black man wearing the same hoodie walked up to him.

Being curious and observant is part of my media job so I often pay attention to people around me. I also just happen to enjoy people-watching. I plan to do plenty of that during my upcoming road trip.