Children converged on the train from all directions, their worried parents speaking in declarative tones to find a seat, keep their hands off the people in front of them, and their voices toggled to inside mode. I knew my mama was coming to work for a reception later in the afternoon, but it had slipped my mind this was a national observance: Take your children to work day.
The sweat on the brow of one gentleman gave him away. His home colliding with his work, his work colliding with his home. His little aliens that he bore imposing on his work planet with sticky fingers, running noses, and joyful gazes. I could see the ruminating in his eyes. Will the singleton sitting in the end inward facing seats allow me to sit with my two children? How long until we are off this train? Why did I agree to this... A subtle smile and resignation to let go of the reigns of his control. I am glad I did this.
Being a commuter has gifted me for better or worse a new relationship with space and time. Minutes have become more important as I wait at a red light with three minutes to my train's tentative departure. Seconds, even, have heightened significance. I am incessantly running to conform to a schedule that determines if I have enough time to walk two blocks out of my way to bask in the glory of Eataly before work, and it determines when I will see my husband and eat supper in the evening. I must confess though, running towards something beats running away from something.
And space. On the train you are bound to a reasonably confined space with oftentimes perfect strangers. If you move over when they sit down so your legs don't awkwardly graze one another, will you offend them? These are the deliberations I make in my head. Will they perceive I am recoiling from them as people? I would hate to send a message of intolerance to basic proximity. Conversely letting your arm, or hip or leg linger sends a very different message, to some.
Just when I thought I was beyond mathematics class, enter commuter math. This takes place below the folds of our consciousness. Can I walk 12 blocks, in these shoes, in 9 minutes? What is the probability the Path will arrive, as scheduled? Trying to judge how quickly to cut through the crowds in order to safely exit to the platform when stuck on the wrong side of a packed train, is its own stressful calculation. I feel unsettled at having to elbow and knee my way though so I graciously apologize. Some people are flat and don't utter a word. I'm thankful for the one off who says "don't worry dear, have a nice day." Proof that one passing phrase can set the stage for a better day. Isn't it wild we have that privilege and power? Anyway, getting in my stance to make it off the train in time. Have a nice day, dear.