When you have a three-hour commute five days a week, your mind becomes a sea of thoughts, no matter the distractions. I’ve amassed a collection of books, magazines, crossword puzzles, and Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers (yum) to keep me busy while traveling on a subway (let’s call it a slowway), but getting lost in my head is inevitable. Daydreaming is one thing, but constant thoughts about work, life, and Russian spies (watch The Americans—you’ll understand) make my noggin ache. Which is why I decided to enact a little experiment.
Putting my best meditative foot forward, I decided to live in the now—not think about the past or future, but merely observe the sights and sounds of the world’s beauty occurring in the present. I’ve been told that with enough training, the obsessive or distracting thoughts will melt away. The only place I’m able to devote time to this exercise, however, is not in some idyllic green space where nature beckons, but during my three-hour commute on a crowded subway. Surrounded by disgruntled passengers. During rush hour. Let’s see how this experiment went, shall we?
“What stop is this?!” shouts an older woman in a green shirt who was too busy fondling her smart phone to keep tabs of her location. Someone mumbles the station. “Oh my God!” she screams while snaking through an army of commuters taking up every inch of space in the car. “Out, please! Out, please!” Just watching her step and fall over strangers made me anxious, but at least my mind wasn’t again fixated on Elizabeth Jennings, played exquisitely by Keri Russell (watch The Americans—you’ll understand).
“Wassup, dude?” says the 20-something male sitting next to me about 20 minutes later. He proceeds to tell his friend on the other end of the phone and everyone else on the train—whether we want to hear it or not—that he attended his sister’s birthday on Saturday, saw Mom on Sunday, and is about to head on a trip. Which trip? Don’t worry—he’ll get to that. “You ready for Cancun, or whaaaat? All you need is $500.” And some earplugs, I say to myself, as the conversation hits the five-minute mark.
“What are the odds of a bus breaking in half…” says one woman while uncontrollably laughing to another a few seats from me. She comes up for air and follows up her semi-query with “…and then a trannie peeing on me?” I have no words.
I’m nearing my stop. A passenger in a wheelchair exits one of the doors via a metal ramp that was automatically engaged by the subway driver. However, the ramp refuses to retract. The driver heads to the door toward the back of the car, flips of few switches, but no luck. Another subway employee tells the other to “do the bunny hop” on the ramp—which she does at least five times with such force, that the entire car jolts. I now know what those two kids in Jurassic Park experienced when they felt the rattles of the T Rex before seeing the beast in person.
The kangaroo stomps—let’s be honest, bunnies don’t hop like that—did nothing. Her and her comrade used their hands and slid the metal plate underneath the car, which produced an applause from at least five passengers.
I’m at my stop, and it begins to rain. Not much more can happen, I say to myself. “It’s raining,” says one women to what appears to be her husband. “I told you.” This possible dig wasn’t well received, based on the man’s sneer.
Was my experiment a success? What I can say is that I probably need to attempt this test in a more docile location and not during Rush Hour, which I’m now deeming Weird Hour. One positive from the experience: I was so entertained by all of the activity that I nearly forgot the trip took a half hour longer than expected. And honestly, where else can you find this kind of free entertainment?
THE ETERNAL OPTIMIST