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An Open Letter to the Woman Who Shushed Me on the Commuter Rail

Apr 01, 2014 | Updated Jun 01, 2014

Dear Fellow Commuter:

At first, I didn't recognize the noise. I was on the train paying attention to my phone conversation when I turned and saw that the loud hiss was coming from you. At me. Of course people who talk loudly on their phones on public transportation are annoying. That's why, when a potential internship boss asked when I would be available for an interview, I specified that any time all week was good except for the one hour on Monday afternoon that I spend on the train. When I picked up the call, surely you heard me start, "Oh, I'm actually on the train right now... "

"Great, so it's a good time, then!" he responded.

I couldn't hang up. Opportunity was calling, and that's a rare case nowadays.

I'm a Millennial and, as the statistics and skeptics predict, I'm unemployed. Maybe you find this surprising, having heard about my work experience, my travel grant, my cum-laude bachelor's degree. Maybe you think my situation is justified, as I must be entitled, coddled, or just plain lazy. I commute to the City every Monday to take a post-grad class, go on informational interviews, and network with potential employers. My job search, though fervent, has been futile. I was offered an unpaid internship on the train ride while you quieted me, and it's the best opportunity I've received yet.

Career-seeking women are often told to be assertive or even bossy when it comes to work. Maybe I should have taken this advice and insisted that the magazine editor call me back when I could talk elsewhere, far from the train cabin. But I don't live in a world where I can put off potential employment until later. I have to jump at any offer, even when the offer is an unpaid internship, with the hope that it might lead to a full-time job. Because a full-time job would allow me to live in the City in an apartment conducive to loud-phone-talking bliss. It would mean that I wouldn't take the commuter rail, thereby eliminating the annoying girl who interviews on the train, and your subsequent need to silence her.

Fellow commuter, I'm sorry for this entire situation. I'm sorry that it feels like I can't afford to be quiet when it comes to employment. I'm sorry that I disrupted your commute as a result. It would be unfair to expect you to forfeit a peaceful train ride because the job market stinks. Nonetheless, next time you hear a talker on the train, consider the situation before you shush. That phone conversation might be more important to that loud-talker than you suspect.