Sparked by the scintillating commuting-related content now being made available by way of this forum, one of our friends relayed to my wife the following: Her husband, whom I occasionally see on the train and who apparently was a huge fan of pro wrestling in the 80s, met one of his former combatant-heroes on his regular morning commute. My wife didn’t remember the name and I wouldn’t have recognized it anyway unless it was Bruno Sanmartino, Andre the Giant, or Haystacks Calhoun. There also used to be a guy with a full face mask–Gil something? French last name? Anyway, this wasn’t just a celebrity sighting. The two talked all the way into New York and exchanged business cards. Later, the wrestler called our friend’s home to thank him for directions getting around the city.

Now I’ve seen celebrities in airports, on the streets of New York, and even in my home town, but never on the train. But I have seen celebrity lookalikes, and my buddies and I have developed our own cast of characters for a Cheers-like sitcom we call The Bar Car. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Grandpa: A kind-spirited older gentleman who is the spitting image of Grandpa from The Munsters. Always neatly dressed in a suit and tie, with white hair combed straight back and a friendly smile, we frequently see him entertaining a group of younger ladies with his Irish charm. We’ve never heard him speak, but I’m guessing he could spin a good yarn.


Grandpa’s lady friends: A group of four ladies in their 40s and 50s who ride and laugh with Grandpa. They’re a good-natured bunch who enjoy a good laugh. One among them is somewhat sour and there have been periods when it has appeared to us that she’d been expelled or had withdrawn in anger from the group.

The conductors: There’s a pair of conductors who look like they’re straight out of central casting for the latest conductor buddy movie, if there were such a thing. One of them looks he’s from The Flintstones and the other looks like a record store employee from a Cheech and Chong or Kevin Smith movie. They have complementary personalities and they always seem to finish their ticket collection duties right in the middle of the bar car, where they stop to chat with the patrons about all the weird things that happen in the “normal cars.”

The gamblers: Every night, three or four guys and one woman, all in their 50s, drink hard liquor and play craps all the way home. The sound of tumbling dice is always in the background, and I’m not talking about the awesome Rolling Stones song. Every once in a while, this group emits a loud cheer due to an exciting roll.

The Regulars: A group of about eight guys, of varying ages, who all work in the financial industry. They have the system down. They all know who’s coming, save spots and buy beers for each other, and tell each other the same jokes every night. A fun group of guys, but God help you if you mess with them or invade their space.

Vespa Man: A stocky fellow who stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall with a loud laugh, a big thirst, and an accent I’m guessing is from the North of England. Probably a former rugby player. The funny thing about him is that when he gets off the train, he hops on a Vespa scooter for the ride home. This hulking dude precariously perched on a Vespa! It’s a great visual, trust me. Oh, and he’s one of the Regulars. Or I should say he was. He disappeared several months ago. Now and then, during a lull in the conversation, one of us will say, “Hey, what ever happened to Vespa Man?”

Sassy lady: The only female member of the Regulars. She’s athletic and drinks like a man. She also knows how to cut the other Regulars down to size with cutting barbs when they get out of line, as only a sassy lady can. She’d make a great emcee for the Comedy Central roast of Vespa Man–if anybody could ever find him.

Rotating young hot girl: The bar car has some female representation, but it’s mostly a guy crowd and not really a young one. Every so often, an attractive new girl in her 20s shows up and drinks by herself, or maybe with a less-attractive friend. All the guys steal glances and talk about her. One of the Regulars gives her one of his beers and makes some jokes. Eventually, she stops coming to the bar car and another girl takes her place.

The Cheaters: A couple in their mid-40s who can’t keep their hands off each other. It’s almost like they’re trying to put on a show for everyone. She dresses younger than she is; he clearly feels more manly and in better shape than he is. Their tickling and kissing and laughing continues all the way until they get off at different stops.

Us: We’re just three average guys who work in publishing. We think we’re pretty funny making up back stories for all the other characters. We usually grab a spot across from the Regulars. In the beginning, you could sense some tension, like we were invading their turf, but over the years they’ve accepted us. Our two groups sometimes exchange witty comments. It’s all good.


18 responses to “Celebrities

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  12. Having done the commute I can completely relate. Wasn’t a regular to the bar car, but have found that people are regulars to specific cars – 2nd one from the front, rear car, etc. I think we can all find those same cast of characters from amongst the regulars on the train. Hope they continue to brighten your day. Maybe its a movie in the making?

  13. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And since I was there for the inception of “The Bar Car” reality show I want royalties. By the way, you’ve totally nailed the crowd, and I love the picture of Grandpa. But you forget one:

    The Bartenders: This is usually a rotating staff and we all know our favorites. You know you’re somebody when they remember what you drink. They used to be just regular guys who doled out drinks — mostly beer except for hard liquor to The Gamblers (See above) — and took your money. Now the transportation brass makes them dress in funny uniforms like something out of the train version of Love Boat. I guess it lends some class to an otherwise seedy situation. We really like those who stay past Stamford. It extends “last call” by at least 20 minutes.

    My take on the “Vespa Man”. I believe he’s doing time in some Belfast prison for instigating a fan riot at the last World Cup Soccer match. Either that or he ran his scooter into a telephone poll and he’s on long-term disability. Hey, both could happen.

    All in all, I’m proud to be part of the “US” category. I still say we’re the coolest guys on the train. I’m sure there’s another blogger out there who has names for the three of us. Just as long as it’s not Grandpa I’m good with that.

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