I have a four hour commute every day – two hours each way. A majority of my commute is on public transportation. This is not a commute I love but, for now, it is what I have.
In my daily travels I see a lot of unhappy commuters and I feel for them. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the negative side of public transit and for some people it is VERY hard to have to interact with so many people all the time. I am one of those people, so believe me, I understand. Being around other people, especially strangers, is draining for me. Sometimes I find myself snipping at Tony or snipping at the folks I work with after a particularly bad commuting trip. By and large though, I’ve gotten used to spending four hours of every day with 10,000 of my “closest friends”.
My trick? Something I call public telenovelas. Actually, my go-to solution is to sleep. When sleeping isn’t an option though, I go to my public telenovelas. I think a lot of folks have watched telenovelas (a.k.a “soaps”) but if you haven’t, they are basically shows that are character dramas. You have a core group of characters who play out a story line. There are dips and bumps along the way that are always dramatic. Well, it turns out public transportation is just as dramatic. If you don’t see it… just apply a liberal dose of imagination and I’m sure you’ll star to see what I’m talking about.
This week’s notable telenovela was about a twilight relationship (as in the retirement years, not the vampire saga). The main characters are an older man, his lady friend, and their respective families. Already there is great set up for drama. In this week’s episode the man is surprising the woman by meeting her in the city for a picnic. What will happen? Will something go wrong? Will there be a dog involved or perhaps an angry cab driver? Nobody knows! Honestly though, nobody knows because this story isn’t real. It’s merely a thought experiment. Something to work the brain muscles and practice good situational awareness. In reality the guy I sat next to on the bus the other day brought a picnic basket with him and had a nice pair of blue/green khaki pants on. Instead of grumping about being tired and cold I spent the trip wondering what adventures that picnic basket might be involved in. The end result? A much happier me at absolutely no cost to anyone else. So the next time you find yourself playing the waiting game, have some fun with it and build your own telenovela. I promise it will cheer you up. 🙂
Today I am thankful for: the kindness of friends.
I just rode the train for 14 stops with a little boy who spent the entire trip sitting quietly on his mom’s lap. When their stop was approaching he climbed off her lap and she helped him put his backpack on. The only time he made any noise at all was when he tried to stop and pull out a penny jammed in one of the train doors.
In contrast, I had a 30 min online meeting with someone who didn’t mute her mic while eating… And she knew it.
Kids=1 Adults= -30
On my evening commute today there was a woman talking angrily on her cell phone. For those who don’t commute on public transit – this is what we in the business call “a no-no”. Something I have learned over the past three years is that daily commuters somehow come to this unspoken agreement of polite company. People do their best to work, talk, and generally co-exist at a lower volume, allowing for you and your 8,000 fellow train/bus sardines to have a more pleasant couple of hours in the mornings and evenings. Clearly this woman was not well versed in commuting culture. I did my best not to eavesdrop on her conversation but with no other noise and her ever increasing volume it was easier said than done.
The gist of her conversation was that she was unhappy with all the commuting and traveling she had been doing lately. (Preaching to the choir my friend!) She also very clearly felt like she would be picking up some additional responsibilities from the person on the other end of the phone and she was, shall we say, less than pleased by that idea. She barked some demands into the phone “well you need to figure this out soon so I can make plans” and then moved on to what seemed like a strange game of blame, shame, martyr (everyone’s favorite emotionally manipulative version of duck, duck, goose) “I’m just so tired of all this all the time I don’t know how much more of this I can take”. Every stop she would look up and demand of someone “what station is this?! I can’t even read the signs. They don’t stop the train where you can see the signs.” She also got angry when we went under a tunnel and she was temporarily unable to harass the person on the other end of the phone. “Yeah, well I’m on a different line this time and I didn’t know there would be a tunnel there. See, this is what I’m saying. I’m sick and tired of all of this…”
That was the point at which she lost me. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to being happy and appreciating life, but there are a few things I can tell you and one of them is that you don’t get anywhere in life by getting angry at tunnels. I hope for the woman’s sake I was seeing her on an off day and that she does not always carry around so much angst and aggression. What a toxic life that would be.
On my drive home I raised my voice in annoyance. The driver in front of me was displaying some less than stellar automobile navigation skills. As soon as the words left my mouth my brain pulled to a stop and I started to laugh. In that moment I was just as bad as the woman on the train. That’s such a silly way to live and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Smiling, I turned up the music and sang my way home.
Upon arriving home I stretched and took a hot shower. I popped on a mindless but funny TV show and cooked/ate dinner while preparing tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. I sang in the shower, danced while I cooked, and I laughed at the jokes on the show and the jokes in my own head. I was happy. I was reminded that sometimes it’s the simple things that make life so wonderfully bright.
Wherever that woman is, I hope she has found the little things that make her world a better place. If not, I hope that one day she will. Because, from where I’m standing… those little things are all around us just waiting to be enjoyed.