Friday, February 13, 2009

Nighttime musings on a crowded train

There’s something intrinsically beautiful about riding a train. I think it’s something about being a part of the collective and witnessing the human experience in front of you, behind you, and beside you.

I’m writing this on the 6:30 pm Amtrak from Penn Station, as I’m shakily barreling down the long torso of New Jersey toward Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. I was in the Bronx at Fordham University’s Spring Career Fair, where I spent three hours gently dancing around the fact that my company – amongst so many others – had already filled our few internship positions. Crest-fallen finance and accounting majors shuffled from table to table – a venerable sea of black, grey and navy suits. (As a liberal arts major, I had to hide a very sadistic half-smile.)
Now I’m somewhere in central New Jersey. Towns from a train track all look the same. The same stop lights and barren nighttime office buildings. The same lights sprinkled about commuter parking lots that are still two-thirds full – how late do they all work?

And there’s the usual coterie of train mates. The businessman beside me – in a suit and tie – stroking his Blackberry. I hope he cannot read this. Then there’s the woman clucking loudly behind me. I gather she’s in sales and is very, very angry with a member of her team. His name is Dave Murphy. I know this because she spit it out at least a half-dozen times. I’m just glad I am not Dave Murphy. The older man in front of me is reading an Einstein biography; the type is reflected and illuminated in our shared window. The aging ticket agent walking the aisles knows many of the passengers. He bends over their seats as they joke about trivial newsmakers and unimportant time wasters.

All of this happening as the train nears Princeton and then Trenton, and finally home to Philadelphia.

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