The Passengers in the Last Car

This week has been on the wet side of things. I got rained on while riding on four consecutive days, which was rather wearing, even for the short rides to and from BART.
There were small joys to be found, though. One soggy morning, as the train pulled in, crowded and with steamed-up windows, it made me happy to recognise several different people from previous morning commutes: a man I take to be Russian, with rugged, handsome features who walks to the station along the roads I ride down; two young Asian-American women who might be sisters, who sit quietly side-by-side; a pony-tailed white man with a bike, wearing the same kind of rain jacket I rely on; an African-American man with beard and glasses that give him the look of a trenchant intellectual. Again, I am not sure if any of them recognise me, though the bike guy and I have done the queue-dance of making sure that the first to arrive has their choice of door to enter. Bike riders, on BART as elsewhere, tend to look out for each other and be accommodating as much as possible, with the added element in wet weather of understanding that we are enduring it together.

I remember my mother telling me that my grandfather, who I didn’t know, and who was commonly referred to as Deedah, commuted for many years on the train to Waterloo station in London, an hour each way, in a compartment where the same people sat day in and day out. By her account, there was not much talking in the compartment; it was understood to be a time of reading the newspaper, or perhaps doing a little work. When she started working in London herself, I believe she said that she was not encouraged to join her father in the same compartment…
In the city, rhythms and routines are easy to establish, but connection is not always a part of them (these two articles I read on the same day point to contemporary reasons why that might be more true now than before). Recently I wrote a series of meditations for Simple Habit about commuting, and a part of it was about relating to the people around us; is our intention to pretend that we are completely separate, or can we look for commonality, to set out to be kind rather than uninterested?


A recent rainy morning view from BART

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