How to Start a Commuter Romance

A romantic couple on the bus

Can you find love on the way home from work? Many people have discovered the joys of "commuter romance." Is it possible that the bus or subway can lead not only to your door but to a committed relationship?

Flirting by Circumstance

Public transportation often is an uncomfortable and awkward experience. People who seem to have very little in common are in an enclosed space for an indefinite period of time. Many people choose to escape into a book or their iPod, but as Shawn Forno writes for, there is also the option of checking other people out, often with the ultimate goal of getting to know each other better.

Commuter romance has become so common, reports the NY Times, that romance coaches teach "How to strike up a conversation in public transit" in their repertoire. Meredith Landis, a media executive, calls her train commute from Philadelphia to Manhattan her "own personal singles bar." Traveling to and from work on the same train or bus every day counts as a shared experience, and adding in the possibility of romance changes a dreary, boring trip into an exciting treat to look forward to every day.

More Than a Date

There have been more than a few commuter romances that have turned into committed relationships. In 2008 a Seattle man who began dating his sweetheart after they took the same bus ended up "hijacking" the bus (with the permission of the city) to propose to her, asking his "bus girl to become my bus wife." She accepted, to the congratulations of the other passengers.

How to Be a Romantic Commuter

Forno and fellow columnist Lisa Eblin emphasize the power of eye contact and a smile. There is a fine line between flirtation and leering, though. The two key factors are timing and confidence.

Roman philosopher Cicero said, "the eyes are a window to the soul." Too much eye contact, however, can be uncomfortable. The correct amount of time to hold eye contact is until the person realizes your look is intentional: "I noticed you, and I think you're interesting." Then look away with a small, friendly smile which adds the idea "...and I am glad you're here."

This kind of deliberate but non-pressuring eye contact also expresses confidence in yourself, and shows you're not desperate for approval. If they don't make eye contact again, or don't smile back, don't take it personally. Don't push it, either. Simply accept that they may not want to interact and let it go.

Striking Up a Conversation

Seduction coach Arden Leigh suggests that an "inside joke" is a great way to build rapport with someone. If something happens on the train that is funny or unusual, you have an excuse to talk to the object of your desire. Be careful of your body language, though. Sitting near them is preferable to sitting right next to them, and sitting directly across can seem confrontational. Like the eye contact, don't be offended or pushy if your opening conversation is ignored. Simply shrug, smile, and go back to being interested in the world around you.

The goal is to make yourself seem interesting to the person, and you have the advantage that they will probably be on the same train later. Are they reading a book? You can read one by the same author on your next commute. Did they forget an umbrella when it rained? Offering to share yours is a bit cliche, but bringing an extra one and simply giving it to them the next time you see them is friendly and non-threatening.

Some other practical tips for trying to find a date on your commute:

  • Keep business cards with your personal phone number or email and name on them. You may only have a second to give it to the person as they get off, so give them what they need to respond to you.
  • Remember that how you treat other people is as important as how you treat your hopeful date. Be nice to the other people on the bus and avoid ridiculing them. It's safer to make a joke about a situation than a specific person.
  • Practice open body language and pay attention to your appearance in terms of grooming and clothes. You're making an impression on the person every time you get on the bus or train, so make sure it's the right one.

Be Yourself

Like any relationship, the key to successful interaction is to communicate your authentic self. Get to know the person and let them get to know the real you before asking them out. Remember that you may be commuting with the person for quite a while, and it's much better to have a failed date request become a friendship rather than an annoyance. Patiently letting the feelings grow between you can change that dreary commute into the brightest part of your day.

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How to Start a Commuter Romance