The Tribe of the Train, Part 2

During my 3-years of field research of the Tribe, I posed as a “Nomad,” that is, a Regular commuter unaffiliated with any particular clan. As a Nomad, I obeyed the Commandments, which identified me as a Regular and not a Tourist. However, I had not been adopted by any particular clan.

Most Regulars and Tourists are Nomads. Groups of Nomads–which I have classified as “Bands” to distinguish them from the more established unit of the Clan–may band together briefly, but such relationships do not have any longevity; there are no rituals that bind them together.

The first ritual in adoption into a clan is the Rite of Identification: Members of a clan identify a Nomad–be it a Regular or Tourist–outside of the commute.

After a year of commuting as a Nomad, I was adopted by a clan of Train #2214 of the Milwaukee-District West line. I came into contact with this clan because I got on at the same station–Bartlett–and got off at the same stop–Western Avenue. Thus, we shared an experience outside of the Metra commute, namely, the CTA’s #33 Magnificent Mile Express Bus.

Following the Rite of Identification is the Rite of Acceptance, in which the members of the clan accept the new member as one of their own. The cornerstone to this rite is the Act of Sharing, in which each member of the clan shares information about himself or herself with the new member. One’s membership in the clan is finalized by the Rite of Completion, in which members of the clan agree to (verbally or nonverbally) to travel with each other on the return commute.

The Rites of Introduction, Acceptance, and Completion, can also be applied when two or more clans come together. My adopted clan was itself adopted by a larger clan. The larger clan consisted of “refugees” of the losing side of a feud between two more powerful clans. The refugees fled to a more hospitable coach, and formed a new clan.

Thus, clans are constantly evolving, absorbing new members (or new clans), and shedding those who no longer contribute to the clan’s survival.

In my next post, I will share the Commandments which govern the behavior of civilized commuting behavior. These rules give clans the cohesiveness to survive the years of drudgery that is makes up the daily commute.

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