A ladybug alighted on me while I was waiting for the train to pull in this morning, heading to work. I resisted the urge to brush it away and with it, luck; so content was it on my flowery red and black shirt that it wasn’t until I got off the train a half an hour later and walked outside that I saw a wee little thing take flight from my chest. I’m pretty sure I don’t have a magical chest (well, who am I to say?), so I imagine it was the ladybug, hitching a ride to work. I spent the day worrying if it would make it back to Salem, unless it was seeking adventure, looking to break free of the coastal town in search of urban living where there’s more action, grit, and other bugs. Country bug or a city bug? If you need a ride back, little one, I’ll be on the 5:15 train.
When it’s 26 degrees outside and the wind chill factor is, well, major, meaning it feels more like 18 degrees, I find the formula can be extrapolated to mean that if the train is three minutes late, it feels like it’s actually 11 minutes late, and waiting a long 11 minutes on a cold train platform means that the train is going slower than X, whatever X is, and that you may never get to work, and if you do get to work, you will have to wear all four sweaters on your office chair until your limbs regain feeling.
On my commute home last night, the train conductor dropped a ticket in front of me, bent down on his knee to retrieve it, and without missing a beat, asked me to marry him. My seat mate chuckled and the conductor grinned, but who’s to say he was kidding? True, we hardly know each other, and maybe this is a classic conductor’s move, but I liked his quick wit, his forthright declaration, and the way he wielded his hole punch, clicking his way down the aisle. So I’m considering his proposal and imagining what our life together would be like. I picture us riding the rails north and south of Boston, heading to Portland for a day trip, or to New York City for the weekend on his free train pass. At least, I assume we’d get to ride the rails for free. If not, the engagement is off.
I have two favorite parts of the day: my morning walk and the moment my head hits the pillow. While one allows for rejuvenation and the other signals rest, both offer time to reflect. My morning walk is so sacred, it’s become a non-negotiable part of my day. I could leave the house later if I took the bus, but it’s the bus. And given the traffic, my walk often outpaces the bus. Instead, I walk two miles through Cambridge.
What could be better than a morning walk? A longer morning walk. A couple of times this summer, I hoofed it almost the whole way to work, about five miles. Let me tell you, walking along the river at 7 a.m. is glorious. The placid river is disturbed only by the occasional sculler or duck. Suddenly, you discover that everyone is a jogger. Mostly though, I have plenty of solitude and feel free to sing along to my iPod, which is frowned upon in the subway.
Plus I get to take in the sights. Take a walk with me…
What’s your favorite part of the day?
You know when there’s a seat on the T, and you think: “Lucky me!” Well, you should know better. After moving this woman’s plush purple coat out of the way, I settle in to the seat only to feel a certain uh, wetness seeping onto my arse. I jump up to see a puddle. An unidentified puddle. I eye the woman with the travel mug next to it, but she feigns indifference, or is actually indifferent. Is it coffee? Water? Diaper leakage? No idea. I stand the rest of the way sighing heavily and glaring at the woman who may not even be the culprit but blaming her nonetheless.
I then switch to the Green Line where a commuter spills his entire coffee cup on me and another guy (his jeans got the worst of it), resulting in a psychedelic pattern on my nicely pressed pant leg. I’m disheartened looking at my favorite Anthropologie pants, but deciding that I’ll probably wear them again anyway.
At work, the copier is clunking away in need of toner. You see where this is going. I’m showing someone how to change it (“Oh, it’s very easy.”), but when I show her the part where you shake the canister to distribute the toner, I notice that she’s removed the security tab, which results in a mushroom cloud of toner on the rug, the copier, my shoes and of course, my pants.
I’ve never had a pair of pants invite such trouble. Tomorrow, I’m going pantsless.
My co-worker noted a strange phenomenon this week: an exceptionally light commute. Could it be that we’re starting to see the effect of the layoffs on the road, she asked?
If so, hurrah! Finally, a silver lining to the depressing downturn.
Snow always makes for a fun commute. Drivers forget how to drive, buses crawl along, and the T, well, you think you could rely on the T. On my way home from work this week though, I found myself trapped on the Red Line in a packed train for more than an hour. While people started out calm (one woman said she was too tired from shoveling to complain), the crowd grew unruly, pressing the emergency call button to get an update from the rather uncommunicative T operator. After 45 minutes, this enlightening announcement: “We are experiencing difficulties at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience.” Could that be any less helpful? I will spare you the choice words we shared on the train and my sudden onset of claustrophobia that might have gotten me on the news had the train not started moving.
I was off to the airport that night to spend Christmas with my family in Newport News, VA, and got home with ten minutes to spare before my friend was to chauffeur me to the airport. I threw last-minute items in a suitcase and bolted out the door, down the icy steps, and to the airport where I dragged my luggage from the trunk—a trunk so heavy with snow that it slammed down on my head. Things were going well.
Inside, my luck changed. No one was in line at the counter and I sailed through security. Conditioned to rush in such moments, I was whipping off my shoes and coat out of habit, when a guy behind me said, “I’ve learned not to rush for these things. Take your time.” We exhaled in unison.
Despite the inevitable flight delay and getting stuck in the middle seat, the jaunty flight attendant lightened the mood. “Welcome aboard Flight 643 to…Hawaii!” he said to a burst of applause. Oh, what a merry Christmas that would be. An hour and a half later, though, spying no tropical beaches or luaus from the sky, we pulled into a chilly terminal that looked suspiciously like Virginia.
Dear MBTA officials,
Do you remember last year when I complained that the bus I take to work took forever to arrive on the coldest days of the year? Do you remember when I was swearing under my breath about those mysterious “switching problems” on the T that cause interminable delays? Do you remember when I was annoyed that every evening train was packed with commuters shoving onboard causing me to be intimate with that strange guy? Yeah, I will never complain about public transportation again.
One of my favorite things is when I’m on the bus heading home and some unregulated person launches into their life story. I love that. What could be better after a long day than listening to an uninvited saga about one’s illnesses and family dysfunction?
This, I’ve realized, is why God invented the iPod. Normally, I like to be distraction-free on my commute. As a writer, eavesdropping is my line of work. But lately, I’ve found sticking in the earbuds wards off at least some strangers. Now, I like the occasional chat with my fellow passenger (nothing insta-bonds you more than lamenting the slow-moving T). But it’s the strangers I want to avoid. Having headphones on, I can look puzzled, signing, “I can’t hear you,” and ignore the intrusion.
In my job with students though, I’ve had to tell a couple of kids to lose the headphones when talking to me. Of course, it occurs to me now that maybe they’re employing my strategy on me…