Wow – I can’t only pick one thing.
Anyway, as the work day is beginning to come to a close, and I’m dreading my train ride home, I thought I’d write about one of Phialdelphia’s worst attributes – public transportation. I’ve taken public transportation everywhere: New York, Boston, DC, Paris, Israel, and Philadelphia. Everywhere else, there’s still madness, but there seems to be some sort of method to this madness.
In Philadelphia, this method simply does not exist. I take the Cynwyd train, all the way to the last stop. Most trains are nice, sleek, new (the newest ones even come with TVs and digital panes!) and you’d expect them to move on schedule and at a normal speed if they weren’t Septa (everyone who lives in Philadelphia, cue head-nod). My train, which carries solely commuters, consists of one car, and not the new cars, either. The old ones, which have disgusting puke-yellow and marroon seats with the stuffing coming out of them. Even though it usually runs on time and has the best conductors in the universe (example: this morning, the man behind me forgot his monthly pass, and the conductor just told him to show it tomorrow!), I still dislike septa. But the reason I hate riding the train has nothing to do with Septa itself.
The train is really impersonal. I mean, think about it – I ride the same train, every day, twice a day, with the same people who shuffle on and off to get to work and back again. And no one ever says hi. We all sit by ourselves, trying to do everything and anything to avoid sharing seats with one another, and even when you do have to experience the dreaded seat-share, no one says a word.
This is why public transportation was, is, and always will be a miserable experience for everyone involved, and why people will perpetually prefer driving in cars over saving the environment. I would, if parking wasn’t so dang expensive in the city! I have spent approximately 200 hours with the same people, every day for the past 7 months no the train, meaning I’ve known them for about 200 days, and they still don’t even know my name. I don’t even know theirs! I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t even know the conductors’ names, and I make a point to say “hi,” “bye,” and “thank you” to them every day!
I’m not trying to be cynical, I’m just trying to understand the natural human reaction to new relationships. Maybe we view other people as predators? Potential job searchers? Potential seat stealers? Maybe, if I fall asleep on the train I’ll wake-up and one of the upper-middle class people sitting next to me will be eating the sandwich I painstakingly prepared for lunch?
I don’t think that’s it at all. I think people think that perception is reality. Which it is, most of the time, but people are so afraid to come off as overeager, desperate, or creepy that they choose to not exercise basic human kindnesses such as asking a seat mate how they are, or how their day was. People don’t want to look like they don’t have any friends. So instead, we all look like cold, unemotional blobs who are worn out from the life-sucking habit of commuting.
Look, I’m not suggesting that we go all Brady Bunch and lead sing alongs in the aisles, but a game of family feud would be nice and would make the time go much faster! (Kidding). Seriously though, I’m not suggesting that we should all have one another over for dinner, help the unemployed find employment, and bare our soles in our 27 minute train rides.
But the next time I notice someone has a new hair-do’, someone missed a week from work, or looks like they’re spending the day doing fun tourist activities, maybe I’ll say something: compliment their new style, ask if they were on vacation, or are feeling better, or make suggestions about fun things to do in the city.
It’s the human thing to do!
Gotta go, or I’ll miss my train!