Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?
There are moments in time that allow us to either slip to the wayside or participate. Transit can provide us with those moments; you can either sit in your own bubble or converse with those around you.
Life is full of choices after all.
I don’t know about all of you, but every time I visit a big city (i.e. Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington) I am told the same thing before getting on any form of public transportation. Phrases like “keep your head down and don’t make eye contact” and “don’t engage with strangers” are constantly thrown at me. It’s logical advice, yes, one that I’ve heard many of times during the course of my life. Namely when I was well into my adolescent years and wanted to go to the mall on my own.
The fact that I still hear it now, in the midst of adulthood, makes me question if I’ve been put into a bubble for a reason. Am I fragile and I don’t realize it? Or maybe people think I can’t judge a situation well enough to make smart choices.
The fact of the matter is, I’ve had great conversations with people on city buses before. On those rare occasions when I felt the need to be outside of my shell. I’ve also been in situations where it would be safer not to bring attention to myself on public transportation.
Transit can be a place to make connections with people, but it is also a time where some feel it imperative to sit within their own thoughts and not engage with others. Neither option is more right or wrong than the other; it is simply a choice that the participant will have to make for his or herself.
Judging the situation can help you to decide which choice you will make if you’re feeling unsure.
There was one day on the bus when a man walked on and started yelling about his day; his words were not directed at any particular person, and he didn’t want to talk to anyone. It was his time to vent, and it was clear that if you interrupted you would become the source of his ire. Sometimes people don’t have an outlet to properly express themselves, and they choose to do so on the bus. That’s fine. Let them. If it’s not hurting anyone, or disturbing them then that person should be allowed to have a moment.
I’ve also spent hours on a train trading jokes with a complete stranger. She complimented my sketchbook and we bonded over that. Though I never got her name, I will always remember how she wholeheartedly laughed with me: a complete stranger.
While usually I prefer to sit in silence while in public transport, I do like to people watch. I blame the writer inside of me. Constantly, I am trying to make real life inspire my writing. Maybe the way a person gesticulates with her or his hands becomes a trait my character possesses. Perhaps the words someone speaks strikes the match of inspiration inside of my chest that. Real moments inspire.
It’s a writing exercise in a way, which is one of the reasons I will always enjoy public transportation. Since I plan to live in a big city at some point in my life, I can only be grateful that I am not scared of the transit system.
My mother, though, is a different story. I’m probably going to have to call her five times a day for the first year just to assure her that I am alright. My mom seems to constantly forget that I’m in my twenties; it’s one of the perks of being the youngest child and the only girl.