May 31, 2006

Lives of quiet desperation

I may be reading too much into this, but, with that caveat at the forefront, let me jump right in.

I have often thought commuting by train from the suburbs of NYC to Manhattan was, for a certain type of person, a kind of death. It is a suspension from reality, it is time away from work, fun, family. It is a time spent, for most, in avoiding human contact as they pretend no one is sitting next to them and they nurse their silent resentment of the inch or so extra that their seatmate requires. These kinds of commuters, let's call them ghouls, shall we? These ghouls have sold their souls to live where they live. Well, since we all have mortgages out there, I suppose we all have to a certain extent. But it weighs more heavily on some than on others.

For instance, last night, I had a chance to observe one such ghoul. He was dressed in some kind of dockers-like pants, old ones or ones that had missed the last wash day, a button down shirt against which his paunch strained and in the chest pocket of which he had a pack of smokes and some pens. He wore metal framed glasses of no discernable style. They did not flatter the planes of his face. His skin was grayish in tone -- probably because of the cigarette smoking. At his feet, 3 empty Coors light tall boys -- the equivalent of 4 beers in an hour. One beer every 15 minutes. That's a lot of beer, it seems to me. I hope he wasn't driving home. I hope someone was picking him up. But a beer every 15 minutes, by yourself, that is not an expression of joy and happiness. It smacks of desperation and sadness -- like he was trying to dull the pain of his day or even his life.

I hope not to become one of these people. I worry sometimes that I could be well on my way to doing so. There are days I hate my job and days I worry that my daily life (read: work life) is so crushing that I could easily find myself destroyed by it. And then I too would be one of those gray people, sucking hard on a beer. Well, I hope I would at least have the good taste to make it a Scotch. I mean, a girl has to have her standards, you know.

What is it about people that they allow themselves to get caught up entirely in prisons of their own making? This is a serious question. I have been applying it to myself and not in a very coherent manner so this may not make sense. I sometimes look at these other people on the train and wonder if they are tied down by lines only they can see. Maybe its a failure of imagination, that they cannot articulate a solution so they cannot envision a path to accomplish it. Maybe its all about me, there. But the ties that hold you down, I think, are self imposed limits. Maybe you can do whatever you want, if you are prepared to take a risk.

Maybe not.

Maybe this makes no sense and I will cut it off here.

If this made any sense at all, or if you think I am totally full of it, feel free to say so.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 31, 2006 10:18 AM | TrackBack

No, you are not totally full of it, it's there, and I was there for almost 3 years, working a shit job for terrible bosses. A nobody, not listened to.I fortunately came out of it, took a chance and found another job, then got my old boss fired.

Sometimes there's such a lack of hope that you just continue slogging away in the rut that is your situation. I've fallen in to that rut too many damn times mostly because of debt and/or unemployment. That ghouls self-medication is just making it worse too, your diet and exercise make a huge impact on your perspective and mood, a beer every 15 minutes is not the way to improve your situation although it may make you feel better temporarily.

When hope is lost, soon so is life.

Posted by: Oorgo at May 31, 2006 12:30 PM

You're talking about me, aren't you?

Posted by: Jennifer at May 31, 2006 01:06 PM

The difference between those who make prisons out of their lives and those who don't, are people who are willing to change. I understand completely about how scary it is to do that, and how many people can't muster up the courage.

My own personal thought on it is that people who refuse to look after themselves---the ones who are never prepared for the knife that inevitably gets stuck in their back because they're such an easy target---are these same people who create their own prisons. They think that by making their lives smaller, that by lessening the chance they'll come up against someone who means them harm, there's less chance of being hurt. This is their defense mechanism and it's just sad because it doesn't lead to a richer, more fulfilling life but rather to a very small, contained one that's bound to be a disappointment.

But I could be full of it ;)

Posted by: Kathy at May 31, 2006 02:25 PM

Good people find themselves in hell when they can't forgive themselves.

I lived that above sentence for a very, very long time.

The profession you are in is changing, but I used to know quite a few folks who drank to excess. Even the ethical ones.

Posted by: Margi at May 31, 2006 06:44 PM

...a beer every 15 minutes is not the way to improve your situation..."

That's true. To improve your situation, you need a beer every 10 minutes.

In all seriousness, I agree with all of the above. Many people live in prisons of their own making. Although some may not even attempt to get out for whatever reason, the saddest are those who don't even [fully] realize that they're in a prison to begin with.

Posted by: TeaFizz at May 31, 2006 11:09 PM

It is sad isn't it. I commute for 1 hour and 15 minutes from Kent countryside every day to London. I have made some very nice train buddy friends but equally have witnessed the same people every day who are totally and utterly miserable. I think they cocoon themselves on the train journey home, they always look resentful of having to share their journey with other people. There are people too that make me smile, they don't know it, but they do.

Posted by: Sharon Hayles at July 14, 2006 04:07 AM
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