Tag Archives: commuting

Rail life update

I have a train friend that was born and educated in the Middle East. We know one another professionally and continue to learn about each other’s family and background.

My electrical engineer sometimes seat mate is married and has a new granddaughter.

On the flip side, he knows I have two daughters and grew up in the town where I board the train.

I explain that my husband grew up here too.

He had more questions and I answered:

“Yes, our families know one another; Richie and I went to grade school together.”

He concludes his thoughts and restarts our conversation on a new track, “Oh! So it was an arranged marriage? ”

Our two very different upbringings are translating across the miles.

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Mad Dash

Public train transportation is the way to travel into the city if you want to ditch the traffic, read a book or fall asleep behind the wheel. Train commuting is a type of home away from home. The MBTA is not the way to travel if you desire consistently being on time, don’t like crowds or require privacy.

The 6:42 a.m. train was a unique scenario as we boarded the now 7:02 a.m. dark passenger cars in Shirley, MA. There was no battery power, lights or air conditioning. The passengers grumbled as they boarded their unreliable steel pool cars. One man in our boarding line read the riot act to the conductor. Said man was riding the rails to catch a 9:15 flight out of Logan. I think half of us were chuckling at the psychotic traveler; he wouldn’t have made that flight on a good day. He was already cutting it way too close for morning Uber traffic, and airport security checks, even if he did arrive in Boston by 8:00. The conductor told him the best bet was to wait for the next train. There were no guarantees and the crew was already hoping this engine would make it to North Station.

Reassured on every level, I made my way to the top of the double-decker.

We pulled into the next station braking with a jolt. Nobody on the train understood what that had to do with no battery. The Ayer passengers embarked complaining about both the lack of power and the man that ran in front of the train. Evidently, someone had crossed the tracks to get to their platform. When the man realized he dropped something, he ran back in front of the oncoming train to pick it up. Everyone waiting on the platform thought they were going to witness a fatal accident. As they boarded, the train was still dark but their trauma was visible. The situation added more time before we were underway again.

The next stop is right off the interstate, and the largest pick up. About 200 people boarded our moving cave and we were on our slow way again without incident.

We arrived at the next depot with incident. Passengers boarded and then the train stayed on the platform. We weren’t moving again. Everyone hedged their bets to either disembark and reboard the next train or wait it out and hope the situation improved. The experienced group I was sitting with knew better, got off the snail and lined up for the following train that would be pulling in any minute. About 300 people were back on the platform and headed to the crossover when the headlight of the the savior train appeared.

The crowd had words for each other as people tried to hurry in front of the next. Everyone jumbled together trying not to be last. The mayhem was railroad “musical chairs”, knowing not everyone would get a seat.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We were already an hour behind schedule and so many people were standing up, the cars looked more like a subway. The situation could not possibly get worse but the earlier commuters remained visibly on edge.

This second train would arrive on time, so the last few standing passengers weren’t otherwise effected. They had lights and air conditioning. The commuters just outside the city had it made, they just didn’t know it. One woman, standing next to my seat, couldn’t understand the frenzy.

She remained positive, “The railroad does get us there.”

“Yes. This is still better than driving in traffic.” another Cambridge passenger agreed.

“Right? A few less seats does not make a difference.” declared the first.

A dangerous remark from someone that had just boarded in Belmont. I was already on the 2nd train, after the first arrived 20 minutes late, and was an hour behind schedule after offloading and reboarding with 300+ of my most intimate friends.

The morning commute included a bigger crowd, no privacy and I was late. Yes, I had avoided traffic and read a large part of my book. But no, I couldn’t fall asleep, even though it was so much like home. There had been a lot of excitement with the lights off.

To do list

My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.

Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.

The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?

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The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.

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I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.

Until I didn’t.

My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.

I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:

“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.

His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.

My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.

They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.

They grabbed my heart.

“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.

He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.

I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.

Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.

They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.

Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.

A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.

I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.

He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”

I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.

“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”

It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.

Happy Birthday to me.

Friday night lights

I just discovered a blog entry I never published. At the time, I was settling into a new job. It’s ironic that I find it almost exactly one year later when I’m looking for a new position. The blog entry was in draft mode and is dated 7/18/16:

“Since the first day at my new job in Boston, I’ve missed the 5:07 train twice. The express follows thirty minutes later but regardless, both were on a Friday. Last week, I still managed to get to an early movie with my girlfriend. Tonight I decided to manage my blog and hang out with you fine people.

I just updated the settings on my site and took a few photos to share with you:

stairs
My new gym membership – 150 steps

I didn’t “run” the steps this evening but walking up still left me winded.

shoes
My new best friends

I leave my stilettos at the office and rely on Merrill street shoes for the commute.

train
Commuter rail train

Arrival of the train is always a welcome sight to the Sheldon Cooper in me!

Thanks for joining.  I know I’m not sitting here alone.

fans

This Friday night I’m with my 1,000+ followers.  Thanks for hanging out with me!”

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What are you scheduled to do this weekend?

Shut eye

I don’t usually sleep on the train but sometimes I force myself to take a nap and shut out the busy day and people around me…

 I close my eyes and listen to the comings and goings as I drift off to lala land. The end of conversations from the new arrivals are an eavesdropping point of interest, as they find their seats away from one another. The train whistle I’ve learned to drown out is a welcome charging sound into my dream. The train rumbles over the crossings and I enter into New York City’s polar opposite, the city that always sleeps. It’s a great place to spend time. I never know who I’m going to meet or what we’ll talk about in our bustling little world.

My subconscious helps me relax and tells a story just like the one I drifted from…