As I stumbled to my usual spot on the track to wait for the train, a small huddle of people was already there. Every. Single. One had an invisible barrier surrounding them that screamed “do not interact with me”. Every. Single. One was wearing headphones and staring into their cell phones. No communication with those surrounding them, no laughter, lost in their screens. It looked so lonely. I joined the growing mass, just watching, my phone and headphones still in my bag. Not one person made eye contact, smiled, nodded a greeting. Wow, what a depressing way to start each morning, I thought. At that moment, I was glad I only occasionally made this trip.
Some mornings are tough. We are tired, stressed, taking a few minutes to catch up on social media, read through emails, make weekend plans. But we did this before phones and communicated with others.
Creatures of habit, people seem to ride the same train car each ride. So I am fairly certain some of these people see each other daily. What connections lost, matches unmade as people avoid each other?
After my meetings ended midday, I caught a non-rush-hour train out of the city. The woman who sat across from me was about my age, and she pulled out the novel “ My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman.
“That is one of my favorite books,” I told her.
“ I am about halfway done,” she replied. “ I don’t usually like mystical books, but I like the relationships in here.”
After we talked a few more minutes about the author’s other books, I told her I didn’t want to disturb her reading time. She didn’t care. We spent the entire ride talking about books we liked , styles we didn’t, our book clubs, and gave each other reading recommendations.
I admit that if I rode the train daily that I probably wouldn’t want to talk to other passengers each ride, every day. I know my head can be buried in my computer or book on many rides. But, after disembarking that train with a new list of books to read typed into my phone, I thought about how much more satisfying the commute was home after having an enlightening conversation.
I felt a little lighter, and my companion still had 20 minutes longer to read her book.
The journey continues.