A Bitter Reminder, A Fond Farewell

The day-to-day tends to bring itself into the forefront and consume your thoughts. You worry about what’s going on, and what’s about to go on, and not so much about what went on earlier, what will go on later, and what you wish you had thought of once later gets here.

We take the most important things and assume they’re always going to be there, and that these things are aware that they’re our most important things. Everything is inconvenient, everything is a bother that we put off until later when there are less pressing things to deal with.

So much of our lives are consumed with getting to tomorrow that today is literally wasted on things that in the end may not even matter. The time we spend thinking about what to have for dinner, who to call for appointments, what to pay gas, where to park to maximize exercise but not delay us too much, should we spend that $5, should we eat that cookie, should we rent that movie, should we check our Facebook walls, should we tweet this thought, or this one, or this one, or that one I had before.

And so life goes, day after day until you find yourself here, today, wondering where the time went, when your kids grew up, when they learned to read and tie their own shoes, and you realize they learned all that when you were frustrated and complaining that they didn’t know how to do it yet. When you were wishing them out of the high chair, out of the walker, out of the strollers, out of diapers, and it hits you that you wish they were back in those things.

Years ago as I grew up, there was a girl in my class, and because she was a girl, I couldn’t like her. Those were the rules. The girls were all mean, as were about 80% of the boys. I had only a few friends, and although now that we’re all grown, everyone could likely get along, only a few would admit the stupidity that governed the adolescent social network in the early 80s.

One fine day I and a male friend (not quite one of the 20%, but close, perhaps mid 30%s.) were after school at the home work help center, at a table with the afore-mentioned girl. This was unusual territory for me to find myself in, though my companion seemed comfortable, so I kept the shields down.

“Lemme sign your notebook,” he said. “Okay,” she allowed. He drew some goofy poorly drawn somethingorother and handed her back the pen. “Want me to sign it?” I asked. “Uh, no, that’s okay” she said, to which my friend said “Oooooohhhh!!”

S’alright, I didn’t wanna sign her stupid notebook anyway.

While I was a little embarrassed I was grateful she was at least nice enough to say no thanks, rather than laugh, or look appalled. The lack of malice did not go unnoticed.

Time went on, to the tune of a few years, and run ins with her, or anyone else of the opposite sex, and most of the same, were few and far between. I hated them, cause I knew they hated me, and that was fine.

Eight grade came and went, she went one way, I went another. Last time I saw her physically was 1993. I was just shy of 14. Fast forward 17 years, and I talked to her a while on Facebook. I wanted her to know that when I looked back, she was always one of the nicest, and sorry for giving her any sort of hard time I may have (did).

Marcy MacDonald passed away last night, in her sleep. I’m not sure how, that I saw it said on her Facebook page that she had an aneurysm. I don’t know any of the details, but I am completely shocked by it, as our mutual friends all seem to be.

In the last two years I got to know her fairly well, and through Facebook she shared pictures of her son and family and life. She posted frequently, and not the drama filled posts of many folks who post frequently, she posted about fun, and love, and life. She was very proud of her straight A son, and was planning a trip back to Boston soon.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Don’t assume they know you love them. Don’t assume they’ll be there tomorrow, after you get that report finished. Forget about the business meeting, the political agenda, and all the other crap you’d kick yourself for valuing above the important things, and go hug your kids, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and whatever else you’re lucky enough to have with you, cause you never know when you won’t, and you’ll never get the chance to after that.

Marcy, I’m glad to have known you, and I’m glad to have gotten to know you as an adult. Although I never got to sign your notebook, I am honored to have been able to leave a mark on your Wall. I truly enjoyed chatting with you on Facebook about times passed, and times yet to come, and I look forward to getting the chance to do it again someday. You will be greatly missed. I know you’ll put in a good word for us, even if we never did anything to deserve it. Yours is a memory I, and countless others will never forget.

To the loved ones left behind: I know there’s really nothing that anybody can say to dull the ache, or right the injustice, but know that my heart goes out to all of you. I wish you love and peace.

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Brookline MA Can Thank Me for Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Years and years ago, growing up in Brookline MA, there was a Carvel’s ice cream on the corner of Rt. 9 and High Street. Don’t bother looking for it now, these days it’s a Dunkin Donuts, like everything else I remember being something else when I was a kid.

Around the age of 11, I used to walk down and buy a hoodwich, which if you don’t know was two chocolate chip cookies pressed together around a block of ice cream that was frozen so solid you needed a chisel to get through it.

Actually that’s not entirely true; I used to buy whole packages of 5 of those. I was a fatty.

Ice cream was always and will always be one of my favorite things to eat. One day, I was talking with a cousin of mine, and he told me about this mystical ice cream flavor that was chocolate chip cookie dough. A combination of two amazing things, I thought! The next trip to Carvel, I checked. They didn’t have it. I was crushed. I probably bought two packages of hoodwiches that day.

Incidentally, they probably weren’t called hoodwiches at Carvel since hoodwiches come from hood, and Carvel sells their own stuff… But anyway, you get the idea.

Some time later in the week, I’d come back to blow some more allowance, and I decided this day, I would sit in the dining area and eat my food there with a friend of mine. That day, I only bought one. I was poor that week.

As I sat bullshitting with this friend of mine, I noticed the manager of the establishment sitting with another fellow who was flipping through pages on a clip board. They were discussing what flavors to order in the upcoming weeks.

“Anything else you wanna try, we have some new flavors.” the clip board guy said.

“Uh, no, nothing that I can think of that we don’t already have,” said the manager.

“You should get Cookie dough” I said, butting in with my 2 cents.

“You know, I think he’s right,” said the manager.

Epic Victory for the town of Brookline! Yay for me!

Had I never inserted my opinion as a consumer, Brookline MA may never have known the wonder that is, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.

Couple years later, Carvel shut down there, but I don’t think it had to do with me.

Were you ever responsible for contributing directly or indirectly to your own town’s obesity the way I was?!

What’s that Smell??

I got up this morning, a little bit later than I should have. I came down, poured a coffee and threw some frozen waffles into the toaster. I got a couple things ready in the living room where I’ve been setting up shop lately, logged into my computer, started my necessary programs, and I heard my waffles pop up.

I took a sip of my coffee and headed out to the kitchen. As I rounded the doorway I was punched in the face by a memory associated with the smell of toaster waffles. They say smell is the sense most powerfully associated with memory, and it’s moments like this that prove it.

I’d mentioned before that I was never a great student, and that was never more apparent than shortly after the 6th grade. I’d done some hard-core slacking off that year, and got a failing grade for the fourth quarter of Science. I passed the other quarters, but only barely, so I didn’t know whether or not I’d passed for the year. I took it in stride; calm, cool, and collective, as was my way.

Several days later, we got a letter in the mail that my disappointed and mildly angry mother read to me. It wasn’t required, but strong recommended that I go to summer school, as I had passed science by the skin of my teeth with a D- average. Further, was the fact that going to summer school had a price associated with it, and I knew my folks didn’t exactly have cash laying around. Phew! I thought. Summer school would have interfered with our trips to the MDC pool in Brighton that we frequented every day of every summer for the last few years.

I sat at the table, feeling like I was invincible, having dodged the summer school bullet. I was eating my waffles, feeling very pleased with myself and probably acting the part. I was feeling great, right up until I said something, or did something that pissed off my already angry mother. I can honestly tell you, I don’t remember what it was that I did, but I knew I’d stepped in it as soon as it happened… In a tone that tied my stomach in a knot, a tone that I couldn’t begin to describe, she said “…oh yeah?”

She got on the phone and called my father at work. I listened, hoping that he’d tell her to forget it, that we didn’t have the money for it. “I think that’s a good idea,” I heard him say over the phone. Crushed, I started to cry as I tried to eat my now-cold waffles. I tried to ride out the storm, thinking it was a scare tactic. I moved a waffle bit around in the syrup, and squished some butter between the tines of my fork, in an effort to distract myself until it blew over.

Alas, it did not.

I went to summer school a couple days later. I went again for failing science the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and again for failing English (of all things) before entering high school. I don’t remember anything about the events leading up to the second two bouts with summer school, except that there had been no two ways about those two times. I didn’t pass at all, I was going to go to summer school, or stay back a grade. Perhaps having gone through the first round thickened the skin enough that by then it was no big deal.

You might think that reliving that memory this morning, as I walked into the kitchen would be an unpleasant one, but sending me to summer school was the right decision. Were I the parent in that particular instance, I’d have done the same thing without a moment’s hesitation.

Teenaged Idiots

Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew were staples in my diet through high school, and most of college, although in college, I was rather poor, so I would settle for the Wal-Mart versions, Dr. Thunder and Mountain Lightning.

When I was little, I had my first Dr. Pepper, and I loved it, but one of my brothers told me it was disgusting, so for some reason, I agreed and stopped drinking it. Years later, a fellow student named Alec, with whom I would become good friends, swore by it. I was reintroduced, and and re-hooked.

Dr. Pepper became sort of symbolic to me, because it was that soda that is not always available, and that not many people seemed to like… Perhaps in addition to the taste, I liked that it was sort of an identity thing. That, and if Dr. Pepper was around, I probably wouldn’t have to share it much.

One night, Alec and another friend of ours who went by Grundle… If you know what that means, don’t ask… If you don’t know what that means… don’t ask.) and I were driving around Grundle’s 83 Buick Park Avenue (the thing was a big, white, couch on wheels. It was not uncommon for me to nod off in the passenger’s seat. Freakin nap waiting to happen.) for some reason at about 2am. I don’t recall the appeal to driving around with no destination these days, but back then it was a great time. We’d just get in the car and go. Didn’t need to know where we were, had no idea where we were going, and had no need to be back at any particular time.

This one particular time, we found ourselves puttering around on the streets of Wilmington MA. I don’t think I’ve ever been there since. As we passed a small plaza, I happened to notice through the window of some business, a Dr. Pepper soda machine! I’d never seen such a thing, and couldn’t believe that it actually existed. Alec didn’t see it, so I asked Grundle, the driver, to turn around.

We turned around, pulled into the parking lot, and up next to the window of the place. There it was, a big, red Dr. Pepper soda dispensing machine, glowing bright red in the otherwise dark place of business.

“Wow!” he said, just as surprised as I was. We lingered a moment or two, and shuffled on our way. We pulled back out onto the road, and started off again. Moments later, we were pulled over by the Wilmington Police.

This was one of the first times I’d ever been in a car that was pulled over, so I didn’t really know what was going on. The cop came to the window, and wanted our I.D.s. “You guys have any weapons or drugs I should know about?” We didn’t. The worst thing we ever did together was Dr. Pepper. “No,” we all said in unison.

The cop looked at Grundle, who had long hair and a Nirvana shirt. “So if I told you I smelled weed on your breath, I’d be lying??”

“You’d have to be,” Grundle said with a shrug and a grin. “I haven’t smoked weed since New Years Eve.” Grundle was asked to step out of the car.

It was then that I realized how strange it was that two 17ish kids and one 21 year old (Grundle was a older) were driving through Wilmington MA at 2am… Especially since we had no destination, Alec and I were from Brookline MA, and Grundle was from about an hour deep into Maine.

Grundle was asked to stand outside the car, with his hands on the roof, while the cop went to his car and ran our licenses. A Volkswagen Jetta filled with teen girls went around us, and beeped. Grundle put on a big smile and waved, “How ya doin ladies?!” he shouted, which got him an immediate holler from the cop to put his hands back on the hood.

Long story short, we were all good kids with no history of problems, so the cop let us go. I asked Grundle what he was asked, and he said the cop wanted to know what we were looking at in the parking lot… I asked what he said, realizing it was sort of an unbelievable truth… “I know it sounds stupid, but my friends really like Dr. Pepper, and they saw the Dr. Pepper machine, and wanted to get a closer look.”

Boy am I glad I wasn’t the one to have to answer that question…

Have you ever been approached by a cop who misunderstood what was going on?

Mr. Goodwin’s Purple Wicker Pickle Bucket

This post is likely to be lengthy (insert mock gasp of feigned shock) and requires a little foreshadowing. There are two aspects of my wacky personality that converge to produce the meat and potatoes of this post, so if you find yourself wondering how I shift gears from one thing to the other… just read on.

Also, I’m posting this story for two reasons… One, because it’s perhaps mildly amusing… Two, I’m trying to see what kinds of crazy things I can get to show up in my keyword results. For more on that, click on the WTFHUH??? tab up at the top of the page.

Be forewarned, there’s a good chance you’re going to get to the end of this post and wish you could get the last five minutes of your life back. It’s a long story, and it’s not overly funny. If you get no amusement out of this post whatsoever, my apologies… I make no promises.


Firstly: I love the English language. I like learning new words, and even making up my own. Back in High School I used to (mostly while in class) think about words I thought were just funny sounding. “Much”. When said by it self sounds funny. I also think it ought to have a T in it, like “Hutch”. Hippo is sorta fun to say too. Puddle. Wicker. Dumpster. These were all on my list of funny words.

Secondly: I have passed every hearing test I’ve ever had with flying colors. I’m not deaf. However, I have a very difficult time hearing words clearly when there’s background noise. Air conditioners are the most inconvenient thing for my listening comprehension lately. TVs are another. …and kids. Perhaps it’s ironic because of my pet peeve about having to repeat myself, that I have to keep asking others to repeat themselves…

The last time I went out for a drink with the wife and her friends, there was a live band. After about ten minutes, I resorted to texting the people we were with instead of yelling over the band. It’s very frustrating.

Because of this difficulty, I sometimes find myself guessing at what the person said. Frequently, I’m correct. I can usually figure out what they said based on what’s going on, and what I know about the person speaking. For instance, I would have sworn under oath that my five year old just told me “You have to clean the urinal. Thanks”. Now… Much to my chagrin, we do not have a urinal, so I knew that was no what she said. I looked over and saw that she was looking in on her new pet turtle, and I knew she must have said “Turtle tank” and not “urinal. Thanks.”

Another such example is a TV commercial where some executive big wig gets on the phone and says “Nope, there’s no law against having just appetizers for dinner.” The first time it was on, I wasn’t paying attention, and thought he said “there’s no law against having hepatitis for dinner”.

There are times where someone will say something, and I’ll be completely at a loss, and have to ask what they said. They’ll say it again, and then ask “Why, what did you think I said?”. I almost never tell them what it sounded like, because invariably, I get “Why the hell would you think I said that??” which I then have to say “I didn’t think you said that, that’s why I asked you to tell me what it was you actually did say.” …it’s much easier to just say I didn’t hear.

Moving on…

My enjoyment of saying words that sound funny, regardless of whether or not they had anything to do with the conversation at hand, or even if there was no conversation at all, continued even unto this day. It has never yielded more interesting results than it did back a decade or so at my first “real” job.

I worked in a room drawing duct work with a half dozen other folks. I had speakers, and a fairly large number of mp3s, so I usually chose the soundtrack. It was actually fairly obnoxious of me. In my defense however, if someone asked me to turn it down or off, I would comply.

There are those though, would won’t ask such a thing. One of the other folks who shared the room was one of those big-talking, “I’m funny cause I swear”, clearly over compensating for some kind of insecurity, stand-offish sorts, who loved Howard Stern. One day, he got himself some speakers, and began broadcasting Howard Stern. I am not now, and was not then, a Stern fan, nor were any of the others in the room we shared.

Fortunately, I could just drown it out with my music, which I’d have gladly turned off and sported my headphones, if he’d asked.

Around this time, my “funny of choice” was “wicker” and I’d try to make tongue twisters with it. It paired nicely with purple and pickle. It just so happened that I came across a website with the phrase “Pickle Bucket”. What made it worse was that I’d gotten one of the other fellows in the room to enjoy the tongue twisting with me. (Boy, that sounds wrong.) He was much better at weaving the wicker words than I was.

One day I entered the room, my hearing totally confused by the music I’d left on and Howard Stern’s latest fart joke, and the Stern fan was grinning about something he found funny, and said “Matt. Mr. Goodwin.”

This was not one of those times when I knew that the words I heard were not what were said.

“Who?” I said.
“You,” he replied, confusing me worse. Why was he calling me Mr. Goodwin?? Was this an inside joke? I freakin hate inside jokes.
“What the f*ck are you talking about??” I asked irritably.
Nothin fuhget it.”

I rolled my eyes and went back to my desk. I knew he wanted me to ask him to please continue, but I wouldn’t. (That’s another pet peeve of mine, when someone acts like they don’t want to tell you something when they clearly do, just to get you to beg them… I’m no one’s puppet, I say! Keep your damn secrets!) Eventually, he cooled off and said “Ok, you ready to hear the joke you missed?” he asked snidely, and I realized I’d heard him wrong.

I explained that I’d misheard him, and that I thought he was calling me Mr. Goodwin, not telling me “You missed a good one.” The fellow who twists tongue better than I do got a hell of a good laugh at it, and began twisting words about Mr. Goodwin and his purple wicker pickle bucket in such speed and complexity I nearly lost my breath laughing. …which of course pissed off the Stern fan again, so I never actually heard this “good one”.

I still keep in tough with the twister of tongues, but I haven’t talked or even really thought about this in a few years. He keeps a blog over here where he’s listing his 1,000 favorite songs of all time. I urge you to take a look, his tastes are eclectic, and you just might find some new music you like.

I’m hoping he’ll come by here and comment on this, and twist his tongue a bit for us, cause it really is a work of art.

The Firsts that I Remember…

The memory is a funny thing, or at least mine is. It “works”, which I say in quotations because some might argue whether or not it works at all, in funny ways. There are things that stick in my mind so vividly that I could recall the event in perfect detail, even two and a half decades removed (which would mean the event happened when I was 7.)

I remember a great deal of my childhood, or at least a good deal more than most people seem to, yet you can tell me on my way out the door not to forget to remove something from the car before I leave, and in the twenty paces between the house and the car, it will completely remove itself from my attention. (This happened last week).

For the technology geeks in the audience, I liken this to having a large hard drive, but not a whole lot of ram…

I remember being in diapers, and running around an apartment that we moved away from when I was two years old. My most vivid memory in this place was that one of my brothers (who at the time would have been 15 years old, or so) had Reeses Pieces, which I discovered in his room, and began to eat. I remember wanting to share them with him, but he ran. I remember chasing him down the hall, and thinking that if he ducked into the bathroom, the chase would be over, he’d be gone. Sure enough, he did, and I thought he disappeared.

Some years later, when I was perhaps five or so, we’d moved out of there, but only across the park to another apartment. I was laying in bed, on my side. You know when you’re laying on your side, and your pillow is pressed against your ear, and you can hear your heartbeat? I remember that happening for the first time (or at least, noticing it for the first time) and thinking it was the sound of a man in the basement with a gigantic wrench, and he was unscrewing the cap on a large brown pipe… Obviously, because I had my head to the surface, the sound was coming from below. I was clearly too young to realize the basement was two floors away. Hey, it made sense to me, and that’s all that matters when you’re five.

I imagined once he got the cap off, a large snake would emerge from the pipe… I remember that thought in great clarity, the man wore overalls, and large yellow boots, and a denim hat, like a train engineer would have worn. The wrench was a ridiculously over-sized adjustable wrench. The snake would have been green.

As I grew older, I realized the pipe I was thinking of, would have had to have been the cast iron soil pipe, and the wrench would have been opening the clean out. The wrench probably wouldn’t have been adjustable, and the snake would definitely have been brown…

I remember once around the same time that my mother had left me alone for about forty minutes, while she ran up to the video store. Times were different then, I wouldn’t leave my six year old alone for four minutes, let alone forty, but I had TV, and honestly would have been fine…

Except that this particular time, I had to go to the bathroom. I was old enough to handle this on my own, of course, so no big deal. Though, I was very interested in the show I was watching. So much so, that I waited a little too long, and by the point of no return, I was only half way up the stairs, and I messed myself.

I was mortified. I remember thinking “That was my last pair of undies, I haven’t done laundry yet!” …Oh yes, I was doing laundry at the age of 5. Believe it, it’s true. I don’t have the first time I did laundry as part of this post, because I don’t remember it… I must have been pretty young! Anyway, by the time my mother got home, I was crying. She asked what was wrong, and I told her. What I remember most about this, was that when I told her I really had to go, and I just couldn’t make it, she didn’t buy it… “No, I don’t believe that!” she said. I still remember the look on her face, as she shook her head when she said that. “Now tell me the truth!” I knew that if I continued to tell the truth, she’d get madder… So I told her “I felt like it.” Now, THAT she believed! I got in lots of trouble, but at least the discussion was over.

I remember my first time seeing a “floater”… You know, those funny shapes floating around, caused by the proteins on your eye?  I was around five or six, and I thought it was Wonder Woman’s invisible air plane, flying by.

I remember my first prank call… The girl a couple apartments down and I were possibly six or seven, and we decided to prank the only phone number we knew… “0”. We called the operator. I don’t remember what it was that I said, when it was my turn, but after I hung up, the girl I was with said “There’s a strange man in my house and he won’t leave!” to which the operator said “Uh huh.”. We hung up and called back a couple times, and eventually, we hung up… and the phone rang. We looked at each other, and she answered. The operator called us back! She knew who we were, and threatened to send the police!

We told her we understood, and wouldn’t do it anymore. We went about our business for the rest of the day, and by bed time the guilt was gnawing at me. I told my mother “I feel guilty. I don’t know why, but I feel like I prank called the operator, and she said she’d call the police.” (you know, for example…) She asked if I just felt that way, or if I really did it… I told her I just felt like that. She told me that she’d talked to the neighbor, and my partner in crime had a similar story… only she confessed. Busted.

The funny part about remembering these things, is I see my daughter having some similar experiences, and thinking no one knows what she’s thinking… But I do.

Do you remember anything like this from your early years?

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?