Memories of the Commute

I used to ride the commuter rail to work every morning with a friend of mine. He was kind enough to pick me up in the mornings, and we’d head in together, over a 40 minute ride, one way.

When you share a ride with so many of the same folks day after day, you start to realize how powerful force of habit really is. out of the hundreds of people who ride the train, it’s generally the same folks on the same cars.

In the middle of some of the cars, there were tables, one on either side. We always did our best to grab one, and being that we got on the 3rd stop on the way in, and the first stop on the way out, we usually succeeded.

The mornings were tough sometimes though, there’s a High School along the route, and some of the well to do little bastards get their moms and dads to buy them passes, and the ones who got on before us would usurp the tables, play their shit music through their ipod headphones or ear buds or whatever the F they’re called these days and do freakin homework. Worse was when they didn’t have any homework, they would start throwing little bits or trash around at each other.

I really just wanted to slap the zits off them with their books.

But I digress.

There are few things I miss about the commute, not the least of which is the fact that I almost never see that friend of mine anymore… But this isn’t a whiny sentimental blog, (today) we have fun here. As I’m sure you’re aware, I like to goof around… This post is about that.

I used to really hate it (still would I’d imagine, if I had to deal with it on a daily basis again) when people would gawk at me. It didn’t happen often, but you know how sometimes you’ll lose yourself in thought, and not realize that you’re staring at someone or something? It happens to us all, but it’s only okay when it happens to me. I hate when other people do it, and they’re looking at me but don’t realize it. Which brings me to the first thing I miss about my commute…

1 – Made You Look!

One time there was a person across the aisle from me, sitting on the opposite side of the table. I don’t know if I had something on my forehead or what, but this person kept looking over at me. Perhaps I looked familiar. Still, I wasn’t in the mood.

I decided to stare back, but not at him. I looked out the window right next to him during a moment when he wasn’t looking. When he eventually did look back over at me, thinking I was looking at him. Then I snapped my gaze at him, looking him in the eye. He realized that I hadn’t been looking at him to begin with, and that I’d just caught him looking at me. Hah! I won!

But now in his head, he was busted, and he didn’t like it. Now he was looking everywhere. Next to me, next to him, behind me, etc, as if he’d only been looking at me because it was on his way to look at something else. He even shifted his sitting position, and squinted his eyes as if to look like he was thinking about something, and not really looking at anything at all.

I causally looked back over to my other side, and looked out the window, and let the chump relax. A few minutes later, I’d look out his window again, and again he’d look over, and again, I’d bust him. …and again, he’d fidget, this time worse than before, because not only had I just bagged him twice, but now he’s mad at himself for letting it happen again.

Most of the time, twice is enough for people to consciously avoid looking in your direction, regardless of where you’re looking. This is even more amusing, because they’re completely BUSY trying to NOT LOOK busy. Talk about an uncomfortable ride for them.

That’s what you get for looking at me you ass. Who do you think you are?! Heh.

2 – The Phone Talker.

Yeah, we all know “that guy”. On the subway, since there are just MORE people, people talk on the damned phones all the time. But the commuter rail is a different sort of group. Most of them are business folk, heading to their desk jobs or what have you.

Every single one of them has a frickin cell phone. Most of the time, particularly in the morning, it’s quite. People haven’t started the day yet and there’s not much business going on just yet. But there’s always that one person who likes to start earlier than most, and they’re always louder than most.

This bothers me for two main reasons… One, because we are at the hight of our technology. There are microphones in these cell phones that will pick up every god damned noise you make. There are times when I’m talking to someone that I think I hear their sinuses draining. You do not need to yell into the god damned phone. The other reason is that not only do they not NEED to yell, but even if they thought they did, you’d think they’d realize that they are disturbing everyone around them, yet, they continue anyway, so thus they must not CARE.

There was a woman on the phone several rows back talking to someone loudly about nothing in particular, one day. I was irritable, cause I was frequently that way when I had that particular job, and it was the end of the day, the train was hot and packed, etc… She babbled on about nothing, and I got tired of it.

I am not the kind to pick a fight with someone though, even if they’re being ridiculous. It was either I do something to amuse myself, or I’d blow my stack… I started saying out loud, what I imagined might have been the other side of the conversation. She’d say something into the phone, and I’d reply back into the air, plenty loud enough for most of the train to hear me.

My companions around the table were all trying to not be seen stiphling laughs, which amused me, so I continued. The more I said, the harder it was for them to contain. The call ended before too long, all the while the person was completely oblivious to the world around her. Which was good, cause as I started to look around, the world around her was about a dozen other folks trying not to laugh as well.

3 – The Routine

People tend to fall into a routine, which is actually how I prefer things. I don’t like when things change, particularly when there’s really no good reason for them to change. I like things to get comfortable, and stay that way.

Every morning my good friend would roll up to the house, and I’d come out, climb into the car, and we’d head off to the train station. Most of the time, we’d stop and hit the donut shop, grab a coffee and a muffin.

I remember realizing, as we pulled into the train station parking lot where we’d sit for ten minutes or so and listen to WZLX, that we were definitely settled into the routine. I thought about how we’d drudge into the train, contend with the squeeky-voiced adolents for table space. Then we’d exit the train, and half to shamble down the platform at a not-quite full stride, because the pace was always set by the slowest people in the group, and somehow they always ended up in front. Nobody looked around. If you looked around, you’d see a couple hundred people lumbering along, staring at the ground or the back of the person in front of them. Very monotonous. I would always hum “Another Brick in the Wall” to myself, and imagine the video of the faceless people marching along to jump off the end of the line into the meat grinder. The music was the perfect beat for the walk too.

Sitting there, that particular day, I thought to myself that I should change something… But my character is such that I really didn’t WANT to change anything, cause anything worth changing would likely be a real pain in the ass. So I thought of the most incosequential things over which I had control. There wasn’t much, just the things in my hands. One was a coffee, which I really wanted to drink. The other was the waxy paper bag in which they’d given me my muffin, that normally would be landing in the trash barrel just outside the car.

Those days were over.

But what to do with, and who would care besides me? As if to underscore how deeply emersed in routine the world was, I decided to do something not exactly nice, but in the grand scheme of things, pretty innocuous. The train would come, and the two of us would fling the doors open. He’d grab his back out of the back seat, I’d grab mine out of the trunk. (It was one of those 2-1/2 door Saturn coups, so he had a half door behind him, so he’d throw his bag in there. Was just easier for me to toss mine in the trunk as I got in.) This day, as I grabbed my bag, I tossed my little waxy paper bag, all crumpled into a ball, into the trunk, and grinned slightly to myself.

This went on for MONTHS.

I don’t remember how or why he ended up going into the trunk, but I got a call shortly thereafter.

The jig was up. My several-months-long practical joke was over. What to do now?

I am generally not one to tell the same joke twice, so trash in the trunk was out of the question.

That next morning as the train approached, we flung open our doors, and in one fluid motion, (fully intending to get caught, by the way…) as I sat forward in my seat to lean out the door, I reached out with my left hand, and opened the glove box. I’d flip the rolled up bag into the glove box, and as I was standing, I’d push it closed with my left knee.

This was done between the moment, he turned his head to get out his side, and when he’d open the back 1/2 door to get his bag.

I started adding a step, as the train approached, of opening the glove box as we got out of the car, and tossing my waxy paper bag ball into there, before my buddy turned back around to grab his bag from the seat behind him.

Again, I don’t recall what he went into the glove box for, probably registration or something like that. Regardless though, this had gone on for months as well. I was kind of glad when he finally found them, cause his glove box was running out of room.

There are other things I remember but I think that’s probably enough for now.

Do you have a commute like I did? If you take public transportation, have you ever looked around at your fellow commuters and wondered why you’re the only one looking around?

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