Heaven or El?
How to avoid having an El meltdown-even if you're certifiably germphobic or clinically impatient.
Breathe through delays
Moksha Yoga instructor Brenna Geehan says that meditation can help you keep your cool no matter how late your train is making you. Try her routine the next time the El is stuck (in other words, tonight): Close your eyes, place a hand on your belly and feel your inhalations. Breathe through your nostrils as if breathing through a straw, until you feel calm. Slowly open your eyes and imagine all the other passengers are peaceful, happy people, too. Cheesy, yes. But it works.
Sniff sweeter smells
It’s nice when the El doesn’t reek of urine or B.O., but unfortunately, that scenario usually only happens when someone is feasting on smelly, nausea-inducing fast food. Eureka! You can avoid the stench by positioning a smell-good scarf over your mouth and nose so you breathe in a pleasant scent, says TOC associate art director Lauren Kessinger. She puts her scarf in the dryer with lots of Bounce sheets and refreshes it every few days with light perfume.
Block out noise
Drown out the constant drone of delay announcements and loud cell-phone conversations with Shure E3C earphones, a pricey yet kick-ass product recommended by TOC Clubs editor John Dugan ($180, www.headphone.com). “They block out sound, and you can actually listen to podcasts and spoken-word stuff with the volume up only halfway,” Dugan says. For an extra dose of Zen, Geehan recommends downloading Kerala Dream by Shaman’s Dream Project on iTunes.
Degerm your hands
Buses and El trains undergo “major cleaning” every 19 days, according to the CTA, which gives cold-, flu- and cold sore–causing bacteria plenty of time to grow on the seats, poles and stop cords. That’s gross. Pick up a travel pack of Wet Ones Hand Sanitizer wipes; use often ($1.79 for 15-pack at Walgreens, locations throughout the city).
Idly staring at the fascinating advertisements inside the train does not count as pleasure reading. “Occupied time seems to go faster...so a book or some work, or a task to focus on while on the El is a must,” antiprocrastination expert Marianna Swallow says. Cramped quarters make a paperback or magazine your best bet.
Pick a prime spot
Ever notice how hordes of folks decide they’re too tired (or stubborn) to take one more step as soon as they’re onboard? Don’t be that guy. Instead of blocking the doorway, move to the middle of the car where there is more breathing space, open seats and often a bar to hold on to, says Tony Coppeletta, who gives tours and runs a commuter website (transit.elevatedconsulting.com).