Monday, January 31, 2011

The Commute

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

I get on the train. I find a seat. The train begins to fill. A woman gets on and looks at me. I stand up and give her my seat. I walk to the area where people stand, and I stand and read. After a while, my back starts to hurt, so I hold my book in one hand and put my other hand in my pants pocket – in as far as the spot just above my knuckles.

Try this sometime. When your back gets stiff and you can’t sit down, put one hand in your pocket like this and lean on it. You have to kind of bend your fingers back a little, but it will make you feel better. After a while, you’ll be happy again, like me. When your hands start to sweat and your back stiffens up again, switch hands. Also, shift your feet around a lot. It all works wonders.

The woman I gave up my seat for gets up and moves toward the door. She’s getting off at the next stop. She stares at me and looks for something to hang onto, because the train is still moving and she’s frightened, I think. The train stops. I can’t move. I’m surrounded. I have nowhere to go.

“Why are you standing here in everyone’s way?” she asks. “Can’t you get out of the way when people are trying to get off?”

“Well,” I say, “considering I’ve been standing for the better part of the last 45 minutes because I gave you my seat, maybe you should just get off the train and go home quietly.”

“You’re rude.”

“Let me get this straight,” I say. “If I stay in my seat and don’t give it up for a woman, I’m an asshole. But if I do give up my seat, I’m an asshole for standing in the way when the same lady is trying to get off the train. Why don’t I just step out now, throw myself in front of the next train and end it all so nobody ever has to deal with me again?”

True story.