It always happens this way. I go weeks, sometimes a month without reading a single comic book. And then something snaps me out of it (usually it’s an unexpected day off from work) and I grab up a copy of—well, this time it was She-Hulk. And I read five issues in a row, and then I move onto Hawkeye where I read four issues, and then I’m like good God, what have I been wasting my time on instead of reading these beautiful, beautiful things?
In a (long ago) previous post, I confessed that one thing to know about me is that I’m tragically behind on my comics reading. But now I must reveal another important tidbit, which is that I’m one of those pathetic, deplorable creatures known as commuters. The great thing about having to endure two very long commutes via train every day is that you get a lot of reading done … right? I bet you would think that. Ha ha.
In the past month of train rides to and from the day job—that’s twice a day, five days a week—I have read exactly … three comics. A number that I think is actually up from the previous month.
Why so few? Myriad reasons, but let me just give you the top few.
First, you can completely discount the morning ride in each day—it may as well not exist, because it’s really not “reading time” so much as it is “pass out and drool onto your own shoulder” time. We’re talking six thirty a.m. here. (“There’s a 6:30 in the morning now?”)
So that’s half of my commute gone. The second opportunity—my way home each night—is a rush hour train.
A rush hour train out of Boston.
A rush hour train out of Boston that is FRIGGING JAM PACKED. Also, frequently quite smelly.
Now imagine having to board this FJP train at a stop where it is already insanely full—usually beyond any level that could conceivably be deemed safe—by the time it reaches you. Imagine being stuck without a seat. Or, better, imagine getting a seat that is inevitably wedged between two other people, who are very large. I say very large because, in comparison to my small stature and unless we’re talking about toddler passengers, everyone is always going to be bigger than me (I’m a short one, as everyone likes to remind me, constantly and forever, incase I’m somehow unaware). Thus my fellow commuters are always taking up more space, leaving me just the smallest sliver of seat cushion and area in which I might be able to actually … I don’t know … expand my diaphragm enough to breathe. (Although, in the summer when it’s 90 degrees and the air condition isn’t working—which is more often than not—and everyone is sweating profusely, it’s sometimes better to try NOT to breathe.)
That’s the scenario. Imagine trying to pull out and read a floppy comic like that.
Okay. Let’s say I make it to this part of my day, and things are looking better than normal. Maybe it’s a Friday before a holiday weekend, and most people have left early, so my train isn’t as horrifying as it usually is. Maybe I even have a seat all to myself! There’s SPACE around me! I can move and swing out my elbows comfortably and actually hold a book! I’m a commuting champion!
Except that, to even get to this stage, I’ve first had to find a method to package my wares in such a way as to make them safe for the rigors of daily travel. That acid-free bag with backing board and the manilla folder I had my comic all filed and tucked away in? Yeah, not gonna cut it. I learned things the hard way after returning home one night with my Fables trade paperback all turned up in the corners, spine partially wrinkled, and I went to sleep that night crying tears of shame and regret. It’s a trade! I’d thought. It’ll be fine!
Thankfully, after scouring my LCS for a solution, I found one of these bad boys in a copy of Previews and ordered one online. Are you aware that these exist? I wasn’t. It was perfect.
Or so I thought. I believe the binder lasted about two weeks in my bag before it cracked and unhinged. I chalked it up to a fluke, and ordered a second … which has thus far lasted through a year of use along with a trip to Boston Comic Con.
Okay. So, our storage/transportation problem is mostly resolved, but what of the actual physical act of reading on a train? Aside from the aforementioned discomfort of the packed ride, there’s another unfortunate matter to contend with: lighting.
Those glossy pages? Not so easy to read in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the commuter rail. You’re basically stuck with this:
Hence I have all but given up in my attempts to read in this situation.
Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. Comixology is my friend, right? Why am I not downloading comics and reading them digitally? Who doesn’t own a tablet these days?
That’d be … me. I do not own a tablet, nor do I desire to own one, because:
1.) There is nothing a tablet can do for me that my iPhone doesn’t already do.
2.) I don’t want to buy a tablet JUST for the sake of reading comics, and
3.) I don’t enjoy reading comics digitally. Husband says I am a luddite.
Digital comics are really a whole other topic for a whole other blog post, but that’s the quick explanation of my aversion.
Ultimately I have come up with a couple of work-arounds.
One is that I have only been carrying collected editions or OGNs—most recently, Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence. This was especially great because the pages aren’t glossy, so I didn’t have to contend with glare at all, and the book is fairly light and easy to carry. I kept my bag mostly empty that day so as not to damage its lovely exterior.
Since I still do the majority of my collecting in floppy single-issue format, when I want to dive into my giant stack of backlog, the best solution I’ve found is to bring them with me in the aforementioned binder and, rather than read them on the train, I’ve been using my lunch breaks at work as reading time. I used to avoid doing this—since I work on a computer all day, I typically like using my break to get out of the office and give my eyes a rest—but I’m finding lately that on especially stressful days, it’s a huge help to just escape into a comic. And if I read, say, five comics every day during my one-hour break, that’s twenty a week … times four weeks is a hundred a month.
So I should be caught up in no time, right?
My fellow commuters, do you read comics on your daily journeys? Anyone else experience their own awkward challenges during travel, and have you found solutions that work for you? Sound off in the comments!