Friday, April 25, 2008


hello, friend!

I got out of bed a little late this morning...I had set my radio alarm for 7:15 (I like it to go off first so that I am gently awakened by the dulcet sounds of country music), and I had intended on setting my cell alarm for 7:25, but apparently I had been in wishful thinking mode when I set it last night, because when I rolled over to check my phone at 7:40, I saw that it was due to ring at 11:25.

No matter. Luckily I don't work in a "powder keg," as my dad has teasingly called it. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was in a pretty jocular frame of mind by the time I got to the station. Once I turned the corner, what I saw made me grimace. Red Line Delay, a sick person at Farragut North, a crowd of people six or seven deep waiting for the train to come.

Now, when you talk to someone online, some character traits don't bleed into your conversation and only come out in true life. When he visited, Cam found out that I hate lines. I don't necessarily hate all of them...just unnecessary lines that you can avoid by walking faster than tour groups. Or lines that are going the wrong way. And I really, really don't like unformed lines. The reason for that is that I'm not a pusher...and in the world of loading trains and a crowded platform, if you're not the pusher, you're the pushed.

I looked at the boards to see which train would be arriving first—the train going in the direction of work, or the train going in the opposite direction. Though they were rolling in around the same time, the platform for the opposite direction had the plus of being nearly empty. My plan (which had worked out quite well the first and only time I implemented it) was to ride down one stop, then hop on a nearly-empty train going in the right direction, thereby avoiding the fight with the crowds.

Unaware that I was being observed, I glanced back and forth at the boards, and decided to stick with the train going in the opposite direction. An older man standing nearby asked me, "So, you're going to ride down to NY Ave to beat the rush then come back in the other direction?" I was surprised, and smiled at him and said yes as our train pulled into the station. He looked at the boards, and decided to take the gamble with me.

I realized that I had unwittingly gained myself a buddy, though he was not unwelcome. He was probably in his late 50s, had white hair and was wearing a blue and white striped shirt, and sported glasses in front of endearingly unruly eyebrows. Our doors closed as the train going in the direction of work pulled in. We were both surprised to see that it was nearly empty. My new commute buddy made a move to leave our train as our doors opened slightly, then snapped shut. Then our doors opened again, but he decided to stay.

As we chugged to the next station, he said that our gamble would be worth it if only one more train came while we were on this one. I told him that I was a bit worried that he had placed his money on the wrong horse, since I'm notorious for making bad bets. While I was saying this, another train sped by. And our train stopped. On the track. Before our station.

But he was a good-natured fellow. He said that he loves to consider different questions of economics, like the merits of this train ride, and like how much change he should carry in his pants' pockets. He wants to carry enough change so that he can make change, but he doesn't want to carry too much, since he always ends up getting change back. And then he tries to factor in whether or not carrying change wears down his pants, speeding up the point when he has to buy a new pair.

Another train sped by. Whoops.

I apologized again for my bad idea, and as a way of explanation, I told him that I always walk into the locked door when faced with the option of two seemingly unlocked doors. He asked me if, when I see two lines at the grocery store, if I get into the longer one because I think it will take a shorter amount of time, and I laughed and said that, yes, I usually do.

He asked me where I'm from, and I told him my town. He said that it sounded very familiar, and whipped out a book about John & Abigail Adams. He opened the front cover, showing me that he's had it since 1976, because he had dated the first page.

Our train started up again, and it deposited us on the platform, where the board said that the train going in the direction of work wouldn't be coming for two minutes. At this point it was pretty clear that my idea had technically been a huge waste of time, but I was glad that I had made the wrong choice.

Once our train arrived, lo and behold, it was crowded. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation as I and my friendly stranger then began talking about the Red Sox, and somehow we got on the topic of the Dupont Circle escalator, and he said that an ex-girlfriend of his used to be scared of the steep ride, so she'd ride down backwards so that she wouldn't have to see how high up she was. He thought it was a grand idea; I thought it was a bit silly and seemed like it would make the problem worse. Must be one of those quirks that made him love her more?

(Oh yes. We started talking about the escalator because he told me that one time he was meeting his girlfriend for a special dinner and he was 3 hours late because the trains broke down, and he couldn't reach her because he doesn't carry a cell. I told him about Valentine's Day last year when I was two hours late for work because of the snow, and he asked me where I work.)

At this point we were surrounded by people, and merrily chatting away. We got to his stop—only one past our original starting point!—and we parted ways, saying goodbye.

I think it would be nice to talk to strangers more often (maybe once a week?) but I don't want to be the one ("weirdo") who starts it. The last couple of times I've been in Boston the guys were really friendly (e.g. my heel got caught in the sidewalk and I tripped, and two guys walking behind me jokingly yelled that I should sue the city)...maybe they weren't an anomaly.

Fingers crossed. A lot!

I think the whole catching the over train tactic is a huge gamble. But hey, if it works...
other, not over
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