Riding The Rails

Blogging has been limited this week because I have been doing training at the Bureau of Labor Statistics right across from Union Station in D.C. Between the preparation and the actual demands of the work, time has been limited. Instead of driving downtown I decided to ride the MARC train (a first for me). I catch it about 6:30 a.m. and the ride takes about 40 minutes (its the local, makes all the stops).

It was an interesting experience, especially on the way home. There are a lot of regulars on the train who ride together every day. It is their only contact during the week, but for a little over 30 minutes twice a day some of them are fast friends, filling the trip with animated dialog. I had to switch cars to the front of the train to get off at my stop so I went forward about five cars. It was interesting to note that most people are not so interactive as my first group. Most spend their commute listening to their headphones or reading a book, some just sleeping. However, the thing that those people share is their isolation within the little margin of space directly encompassing their seat.

When I got to the section of train I was seeking, everyone near where I sat down was quiet and self contained. One woman was doing needlepoint. A man was reading Bronte, and another woman, a Lt. Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, was staring out the window. I engaged all three and slowly we all began talking. Enthused by the merry band I first encountered, I brought my sense of temporary community with me and started sharing it. The three people at my new location brightened and became smiling and engaging.

Isn’t life like that? All it needs is a spark, a reason to be and the fire roars to life. I know that not everyone wants to be pulled into an ephemeral community; they may be tired, or just not interested, but I find it constantly reassuring how easy it is to strike up a conversation with strangers who have become seat mates and to share a moment of humanity with those who touch my space.

Dear Lord, bless all of those with whom I come into contact this week while riding the Marc train.

3 thoughts on “Riding The Rails

  1. I need some of that community spirit. On the way to and from work on the Metro (Union Station is my stop), I keep my head in a book or on my Pocket PC, and I usually don’t want to be bothered.

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