May 18, 2005

Those early trains attract an odd mix

As regular readers may have gleaned, I am early train type of guy. I take either the 5:26 or the 5:56 a.m. train into work every morning.

As an aside, I usually take the 5:56 train home. That led me to the starkly depressing realization that I exist in 12 hour periods defined by my trains. I don't know why I find that so depressing, but I do and I certainly cannot identify anything uplifting about this division. But, as I said, this was an aside and not the main point of this post.

No, the main point is to reflect on the weirdness that is the early train.

The early train is a different crowd from the rush hour / express train crowd. These early types are quieter, with one or two exceptions, and include a similar mix of people. There are the finance types, the people who trade for a living or work on foreign securities markets. In fact, one acquaintance asked me which bank I worked for. Then there are the critical function types and I include police officers and the like in this group. You often see them on this train along with NYC Police Academy cadets in their uniforms. Finally, there are the gym rats and I'm in this group. We're all either in our workout gear or clearly unshaven and on the way to the gym to spiff up for the day. These are just general observations and I'm sure that there are lots of different people taking the train who don't fall into these groups.

Then, there are the weirdos. I commute with at least three of them. I suppose, since I have no reason to think otherwise, that they are perfectly nice people but they have mannerisms that cause them to stand out from the herd. Of course, I have named them.

First, there's the Twitcher. Twitcher has something going on with her that causes her facial muscles to twitch and contract into a rictus of a teeth baring grin, except without the friendliness that the word grin connotes. She is in her mid to late 30's is my guess, slim, with short hair and favors blue jeans. Seems nice enough, but who knows. It requires a real effort to look away from the twitch on the platform.

Second, we have the Talker. The Talker is a tall woman, maybe in her 40's, a little thick in the body, looks like she may have played power forward for her college basketball team and still favors that kind of haircut. I call her the Talker not because she talks to me, no, that would be just fine. I have dubbed her the Talker because she appears to be talking to herself, sotto voce, in an impassioned way complete with anguished and sometimes exaggerated facial expressions and head shaking. She conducts arguments with herself and seems, from my vantage point, to be on the losing end of those arguments. I try not to stand too near to her out of a fear that I will be able to overhear the argument and might, against my will, be drawn into it.

Third, and finally, we come to my favorite. I call him Yoga Boy, or sometimes just Yoga. Yoga is probably in his late 50's. He is short, maybe about 5'3'', very thin, with graying hair, balding, and some sort of skin condition that causes his skin to dry out and flake. He is usually dressed in some sort of jeans / sweatshirt combination, carries a back pack with a "No Blood for Oil" and an anti-Bush pin on the shoulder strap. He does not sit on the train. He instead stands in the vestibule and appears to engage in some form of meditation. His eyes closed, standing away from the wall, his knees flexed, he contemplates some inner, more peaceful place, or so I imagine. Hence, Yoga Boy. He stalks up Park Avenue with me or near me almost every morning and appears to move with a barely contained rage. So much for the inner peace thing. His elbows jut out to the sides as he swings his arms and his back pack rides down low over his hips as if it was slightly too big for him. And he hates red lights. When he sees the light is about to go against him, he breaks into an odd floppy bird kind of run, with arms akimbo but keeping his center of gravity very low. I find myself cheering him on in his quest to make the light. “Go, Yoga, go!” Although we stand on the platform together in the morning and although we walk up Park more or less together, he has never acknowledged my existence. I have looked at him when he arrives on the platform so as to at least give him a friendly nod, but his gaze is resolutely fixed simultaneously both inward and outward across the platform. Either way, although we have stood next to each other for months, I clearly do not fall within the scope of his gaze. That’s actually kind of fine with me.

I do wonder if it annoys him when I chat with my friend, though, as we wait for the train together.

Welcome to my world on the 5:56. I am but a spectator on this one, most of the time.

I do wonder, only fleetingly, what my fellow passengers would write about me, given the opportunity.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 18, 2005 11:03 AM

Great post RP!

I would think that they call you the "Observer" (and not the rag that the United church publishes), as you keenly observe the folk around you to try and ascertain their goals and thoughts.

I love the post though, it reminds me of when I used to take the train in the morning at 6 am.

Posted by: Oorgo at May 18, 2005 12:48 PM

People watching is a wonderful activity, isn't it? It's like pulling out the inner-Sherlock Holmes and just seeing what you can deduce from observing. I always wonder if I'm right or wrong in my deductions. There's part of me that wants to know and is tempted to go ask, and there's the part of me that just doesn't want to know because it would ruin it.

Great post!

Posted by: Kathy at May 18, 2005 12:57 PM

Ah, you do so make me chuckle with amusement, RP, at your observations & deductions about your fellow travellers!

Posted by: GrammarQueen at May 18, 2005 01:57 PM

Yeah, I would call you "Observer" or "Watcher" myself.

And I believe People Watching is a fine art. I find myself looking at people, wondering where they are going, if they got enough hugs from their spouse, what they do for a living and the like. You appear to be a Master at People Watching. ;o)

Posted by: Margi at May 18, 2005 02:34 PM

I exist in 12 hour periods defined by my trains.

I exist in twelve hour periods defined by my commute, albeit in the truck. Not so very different.

Posted by: Mark at May 18, 2005 04:30 PM

Okay - I just had time to finish reading your post. Floppy bird - Heh heh!

In my commute down the freeway, oddly enough, I get to see many of the same people every day, Their cars are recogniozable by vanity plates, bumperstickers, or trucks with firm names. And yet, I have, in seven years, never really so much as waved at any of them, even though I know some of them must recognize me as well. I just think that's downright strange.

Posted by: Mark at May 18, 2005 05:00 PM

I don't know, Mark, about it being strange. I mean, standing next to someone implies a certain intimacy while driving next to them, well, you kind of want to pretend they don't exist, that they don't see you singing along enthusiastically to Abba Gold, by way of example. Honestly, if people acknowledged that they were in public in their cars, they wouldn't really feel so free to pick their noses so much, would they?

Anyway, I'm glad you all enjoyed this post!

Posted by: RP at May 18, 2005 05:04 PM

Abba Gold and Nose-picking in the car. Are these random pensees, or insights into the world of Random Pensees? I ask the hard questions. It's my job!

Actually, I think it's odd just because of the amount of years involved. But I have always been more extroverted.

Posted by: Mark at May 18, 2005 07:18 PM

Well, the nose picking I have witnessed in other cars but the ABBA Gold I have to own up to. But in my defense, I note that I am married to a Norwegian.

Posted by: RP at May 18, 2005 09:10 PM

Yeah, Swedish, Norwegian, what's the difference? LOL

Posted by: Mark at May 18, 2005 09:40 PM

Dem's fightin words! A thousand Swedes ran through the weeds, chased by one Norwegian!

(my uncle taught me that one, my Grandma on my Dads side was from Norway)

Posted by: Oorgo at May 19, 2005 01:23 AM

I too live by a train timetable for most of the week. It's a constant ringing in my head-can I catch the 5:42, or am I looking at the 6;12? If I leave now, can I catch the 5:42 and get the milk we need for coffee?

And I'm thinking he should be Meditation Boy. Yoga means he'd be Gumby in the cabin, and that's definitely something worth noting!

Posted by: Helen at May 19, 2005 03:21 AM

Well, while you might be right about Meditation, Yoga is quicker and easier to say for me.

Oorgo -- I think those are the words to the St. Olaf College fight song. Or so I've been told. It could be something that gets sung in our house when friends are over and everyone has been overserved. Just a possibility, mind you.

Mark -- actually, one of the women in ABBA was Norwegian. They weren't all Swedes, you see.

Posted by: RP at May 19, 2005 08:06 AM

Oorgo - No offense, man, I was being sarcastic about RP's comment, but I think you knew that! ;o)>

As for you, RP, you know just a little too much about ABBA. Scary!

Posted by: Mark at May 19, 2005 09:53 PM
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