A lot of people ride the train. At least it seems that way, now that I’ve begun riding it myself. Apparently, a colorful minority are just as new at riding the train as I.
Here’s how I know: the ones who ride the train all the time know all about the stops, the electronic tickets, the wifi, the electric outlets, reading lights, and the unwritten, unspoken courtesy language of train-ridership. The ones who are new stick out like sore thumbs.
This morning, an unusually tall gentleman boarded the car I was intent on boarding directly ahead of me. As he entered the cabin, he stopped abruptly, in an evident need to take in this new vista in its complexity before choosing an appropriate berth. He concluded his visual inhaling with a nesting ritual in the first row (naturally, as it offered the most leg-room, and its proximity to the on-board lavatory).
In addition to his youthfully exuberant discovery that his seat back reclined (just as I was setting up my laptop on the unfolded tray), he was the the subject of a telephone call which was from such a distance that he needed to speak loudly into the phone, and each time he was answered – on speakerphone – prompted the caller to repeat their last response. It was a pleasant conversation… or at least I assume it was – I don’t speak French very well, and as much as I didn’t want to eavesdrop, it was unavoidable.
The gentleman concluded his call, and as I looked out the window, the reflection of his smartphone screen caught my eye. Again, I promise you that I was not intent on knowing any more about this man’s life than I already knew, and that having been forced upon me unwillingly. I do not work for the NSA, nor do I practice vigilante espionage. Were I in the business, however, I would have been harder pressed to discover more information than was available without an iota of effort.
The gentleman in question was quiet thereafter for a considerable length of time, enraptured, as he was, in the images and videos scrolling past his thumb. I was unaware that there was much of a market for viewing women engaged in aerobic exercises – my guess is that he was putting together his own routine and was looking for ideas (I applaud his ingenuity and creativity; I never would have thought of that particular solution).
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and so we parted ways in Philadelphia, with hardly an acknowledgment of our brief acquaintanceship.
My forlornness was shortlived, however, as I contemplated that in a few short hours, I would be again introduced to a new character who would promise just as much – if not more – entertainment than the last.
Until then, bon voyage!