From the What I Learned Series
My commute changed dramatically recently. I’m now an official public transportation commuter. After years of spending up to 90 minutes in the car in a day, I simply take the light rail to work now. I feel liberated. First, I hate to drive so just being a passenger works fine for me. I also don’t miss the regular routine of dodging bad drivers on the interstate. I didn’t mind the commute as much in the mornings. It gave me time to reflect and listen to the Two Guys Named Chris Show on Rock 92.3. Love that show; it is spit out your drink funny!
I do still have to drive about five minutes to park. I don’t live close enough to walk to the light rail. I suppose I could, but I’d be a literal hot mess. So it’s been an interesting change of pace to take the train to work. I would say I’m an observant person. I’m not trying to be nosey. I just enjoy seeing how people interact with one another or react to situations. I actually think it makes me a better writer, especially in fiction. I wrote recently about the bad behavior I’ve seen at the airport, but thus far on the train, I haven’t witnessed anything that made me gasp. People are actually pretty courteous and observe other’s personal space. And the train is very clean.
Here’s what I’ve observed. As you would expect, most passengers are on their phones. What else would they be doing? We aren’t a society that knows how to disconnect, but this is not a judgment, just a statement. Many have earphones in, and some are actually reading books. I don’t use my phone or read – my propensity for motion sickness keeps me from being entertained by my devices.
Until last week, my commute had been mundane. The most shocking thing I had seen was some questionable skirt lengths (I’m thinking are you really wearing that to work?) and interesting outfit choices. I had heard snippets of conversation (it’s hard to believe people can talk on the phone – how can they hear?) but nothing juicy.
Then last week, I arrive at my stop to see a man being arrested. He was handcuffed sitting on the bench. I have no idea what his offense was. Maybe I’m naïve or just have little reference, but it was bit shocking. I’ve seen people be arrested before, but it made me wonder about the circumstances of the arrest and how that person got to be where he is. And how I was standing on the other side of the tracks, dressed nicely ready to go to my job in a skyscraper. Could that have been me? I don’t attempt to understand what that man’s life may be like or if he deserved the arrest. There have been so many choices and roads taken that have brought us to here to who we are right now. Just taking one detour from that path could’ve meant a different outcome. As I was standing there not thrilled to be going to work, it made me think: be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.
Then I boarded the train, and within a minute there was a woman screaming on the phone. We all heard it. I have no idea who she was talking to, but the gist of the conversation was that she was upset that a man wasn’t taking care of his kids. She seemed embarrassed and even said so while on the phone. This woman’s plight isn’t unusual. There are plenty of fathers and mothers who don’t take care of their kids. I have no idea how that woman must feel or what her struggles may be. But again, it made me think: be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.
When I began to write this, I thought it would be one of my lighter posts; that I would share some funny anecdotes about people acting foolish. But perspective often shifts based on experience. We shouldn’t necessarily compare ourselves or our lives to others. I can’t look at the young girls in their 20s and compare myself to them. I’m not in my 20s anymore. I’m not ancient, but I’ll never have that youthful glow again. However, when you witness real life unfolding for others that’s so different than yours, you can be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.