Thursday, March 7, 2013

Public Transportation

I like traveling. I like traveling with like-minded people. I like traveling among people. Some of this comes from my enjoyment of moving, of seeing, of experiencing, of almost magically getting on in some quiet borough and getting off in a busy, dizzying metropolis. It helps that I can (and do) sleep almost anywhere in almost any position. But no matter the destination, getting there is also enjoyable.

Now I could launch into an analogy about life and how we're supposed to enjoy the journey and how we get there is just as important as arriving, but I won't.

One of the best parts of the actual travel part of traveling is the people (besides flying. Flying is awesome. Looking at the tops of clouds is awesome.). Of course there are the super garrulous folks who want to talktalktalk the whole trip when you just want to read or sleep, but I think they're annoying because we've decided that they're annoying. I always enjoy traveling more when I take my headphones out, I close my book, and I look around me and interact. And then go back to reading my book because, dang it, I really want to read my book.

Thanksgiving 2011 really brought this home to me. I was living in Wisconsin and traveling to Boston to visit my sister (Boston is awesome at Thanksgiving. Massachusetts is like Thanksgivingland.). I was traveling on the actual morning of Thanksgiving, and I was wondering how people were going to be. Turns out they're fantastic. Traveling Thanksgiving morning is the best because everyone is going somewhere happy. People are boarding shuttles and planes with large tupperwares of cookies in their laps. They're going to see family. Couples are traveling to some exotic locale. I saw a large extended family maneuver all of their children onto the plane for a destination holiday. And the kids weren't complaining. Partly because it was super early in the morning and they were still half asleep, but partly because they were going somewhere awesome.

I once flew next to a woman who spent the entire flight engrossed in a manual on growing lilies. Engrossed. It was all about different strains of lilies, how much water to give, how deep to plant them, etc. There were complex diagrams and everything. Yes, I was reading over her shoulder. Don't tell me you don't do it on the plane sometimes.

I was on the metro here in DC near Valentine's Day and I overheard an older, well-dressed man order $75 worth of chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered. Now I don't know much about the chocolate strawberry market, but that seems like a lot of berries.

I once entertained a little girl sitting in front of my on a flight for half an hour by playing peekaboo and pulling weird faces. I have a lot of weird faces. Apparently she was very upset when I ended up falling asleep.

I met a woman on a flight who was in the final stages of preparing for her significant other and her to bicycle across the continental US. The summer before they had done the entire Appalachian trail. Look it up.

During a stormy flight once I talked to a man in industrial design who explained to me that the wings of the plane were designed to bend and flex, but maybe not quite as much as they were currently doing. It was super comforting.

The other day on the metro I talked to a nice man about human rights abuses in the Baltic states and about his children and the schools in the area.

An old couple I was sitting with one time were convinced that I was the perfect match for their grandson and that moregirlsthesedaysneedtohavemoregumptionlikeIdidinordertotrynewthingsandnotwaitaroundforpeoplebutstillIshouldmarrytheirgrandsonbecauseIwouldbegoodforhim. They got my number and everything so they could invite me over for dinner. Sadly I never got a call and never met this paragon-of-manly-virtues-grandson. My loss, apparently.

There really is nothing like mass transit to get so many dissimilar people in a space together, have them be quiet, and have them studiously ignore each other for significant periods of time. Some groups of people make it harder for people to ignore them than others. But there is always somebody interesting or some interaction to observe that is funny or heartwarming or odd or memorable. Especially when your phone dies and you have no other choice but to finally look up.

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