Public Transportation Anxiety

Waiting for the L
Photo credit: sniggie on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Part of what happens when I’m anxious about going somewhere is that I obsess about things that could go wrong. I can’t rid my mind of these thoughts. What if it’s crowded? What if there’s a delay? So I’ve learned to be prepared for the outing. My husband drives me everywhere because I can’t drive, so I don’t have to worry about taking public transportation to get where I’m going. However, it is one of the goals I’m working on in therapy.

Taking public transportation makes me anxious: the wait for the train or bus, wondering if they will be delayed which would then cause me to be late, wondering if it will be crowded. It’s a lot easier to ride the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) going home because there are no time constraints or anything like that. It could still be crowded though.

When I regularly rode the CTA, I tried to make sure that when possible, I would travel at non-peak times, as in before or after rush hour. During rush hour the trains and buses get so crowded it’s like a pack of sardines (sorry for the cliché). But even before I’ve left my house, I’ve made sure there’s money on my fare card and I’ve checked a public transportation app to see what time the next bus/train will arrive.

When possible, do one or more dry runs of the route, days before the meeting. Take the train/bus to your destination. Bring a friend for support if you can, so you won’t have to do it alone. Practice.

On the day of the appointment, when I get to the train station, if there’s a line at the turnstile where people pay, I try to move swiftly. Before I even get to the station, I have my fare card in my hand, ready to pay my fare; no fumbling in my wallet. Yes, it could get stuck in the slot where you insert it, but that doesn’t seem likely. And if it does? What’s the worst that can happen? You’re late to your appointment through no fault of your own. And if the people you’re seeing aren’t understanding, you may want to rethink whether or not you want them in your life. Or is that too harsh lol?

These are the things I did when I took public transportation. Since I’ve been unable to leave my house by myself, I have yet to take my own advice.

How do you get around?

6 thoughts on “Public Transportation Anxiety

  1. I almost always drive. If I have to be somewhere at a certain time and I’m not sure how long it will take to get there, I find a coffeeshop near my destination and plan to get there 30-45 minutes early and have a coffee. Then if it takes longer than expected, I skip the coffee and go straight to the appointment. It helps that where I live there are Starbucks everywhere, so I don’t have to worry about going somewhere unfamiliar and not knowing what to get or how to order.

    1. That’s a really good strategy. There are plenty of Starbucks here, too. I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. I either get around when my roommate drives or she allows me to borrow her car.
    When I was homeless for that stint of two and a half years, I would have to rely on a service provided by the county, and they were constantly late, or never showed up at all. Plus it was always packed. I’m like you… I don’t like being tardy, and I am so fearful of crowds.
    The last time I took any form of mass-transit, It was over 10 years ago. I wasn’t a fan of that either… always feeling as if I was on guard and a nervous wreck.

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