Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Routines can make life feel repetitive and boring sometimes, but they can also make life more comfortbale, and sometimes, sometimes, a little more enjoyable. For instance, I ride one or two buses and the train everyday from my small-ish city to the smaller suburb that houses my small college--which is also my employer. Somedays I certainly resent that a normally 25 minute commute by car takes an hour and a half--adding a solid three hours on to my work day. Other days, I feel so glad to hear the rumbling welcome of the train that will take me, stress free, to the smaller suburb in exactly 28 minutes.

As I walk down the stairs of the station, the deep bass of the engine vibrates through the air. Through the doors, I walk to the first entrance on to the train and turn right. I then take the two-seater directly behind the four-seater with the table. If I am on the early train, I also nod and smile to the guy who always sits in the fourth seat on my left. Usually there are only 3 or 4 others in the car with me. I place my backpack on my right and hug it to my side. Then my headphones cover my ears (I don't have ear buds because my ear holes are too small), and I press play on my IPod Mini. Sometimes it is on a quiet mix or Garden State, but usually my morning ears prefer the Magnetic Fields, Coldplay or Damien Rice, if I am feeling a little depressed. Once that is sorted, I do one of three things--lean back and stare out the window, read a news source, or read my novel du jour. Sometimes this is my entire trip, other times a rowdy group of three men and one woman sit at the four-seater to my forward right and I eavesdrop. I still cannot figure out their dynamics--friends, co-workers, husband and wife with friends--am working on that.

After disembarking, usually the only one getting off among hundreds embarking, I gently push through the throng, walk into the little station and sit on the bench in the far left corner. This gives me the best view of the whole station and the bus stop. Usually, I wait approximately 22 minutes for the bus. In this time, I read the Metro or subtely watch the interesting lady who sells coffee at the station. She is a chain smoker who likes clicky-clacky shoes, dark make-up and taking smoke breaks between trains. I also know she doesn't always wash her hands after using the toilet. I think I watch her in the hopes that I will see her wash her hands or at least use hand sanitizer behind the counter. No positive sitings yet.

At 8:30, my bus arrives. Sometimes I chat with the bus driver--I am usually the only passenger. She has two granddaughters she worries about (they've had a rough time of late), loves to sail and to travel around the U.S. She drops me off near my office building even though it is not the real bus stop.

After work, the afternoon routine begins. I catch one of two buses- late or later. I am usually the only passenger, though students occasionally ride and mostly on Fridays. I look forward to seeing my afernoon driver--he is smart, funny and hopeful. At first we didn't talk on the ride, now we always talk and I am glad. We talk about politics, censorship, movies, music and more. He wants to go back to school but he's scared--though he claims he is too old--just like he is scared to date again after his divorce. He is smart though--and he thinks a lot. Not much else to do working this job, he says, but read during the breaks and think during the drives. I talk with him until the automated signs announce,"Train Appraoching."

As I walk down the platform, I look over my right shoulder to check the distance of the train's single headlight. I bounce down the two sets of steps, turn right, walk under the overpass and bop up the two sets of steps to the south-bound platform. Quickly, I move toward my usual waiting point on the north side of the pay phone. As the train approaches, its bell rings -ding, ding, ding- getting louder with each foot of progress. Within a moment, I feel the rush of air from the passing locomotive and smell the burning rubber as the brakes engage. I move forward and stand in the yellow Do Not Stand area as hundreds of commuters disembark. They hit the ground running and hurry to toward their cars to be the first out of the lot.

The bearded, bespectacled conductor stands between the two cars and shifts from foot to foot like a bored, depressed zoo animal. Right, left, Watch Your Step. Right, left, Watch Your Step. Right, left, Watch Your Step. Each word said in a monotone barely audible above the din of descending passengers. Everyday we meet, everyday amidst the hubbub, he says,"Tickets, please." I show him my pink pass, he squints at it, says thanks and goes back to his routine. Right, left, Watch Your Step. I always think he could teach Eeyore a lesson or two. As more and more people get off the train, I stare unabashedly at the conductor--right, left, Watch Your Step. I take in the neat,black beard, conductor uniform (hat included), steel-toed biker boots and the gold band adorning his left ring finger. Each day, I wonder if he is happy, if he likes his job, wife, life. Maybe he just gets through the day and saves his personality for when the bell tolls at the end of the work day.

I climb up the right side stairs once the flow of people stops. Taking the first open two seater--I don't like seat mates--I sit down, put my bag by my side and pull it close. Taking my headphones out of my bag, I place them on my head and choose my music--more flexible in the afternoons with my music selection. Sometimes I proceed to scribble furiously in my journal. Other times I read my novel du jour (see former blog from October). I never read the news in the afternoon--this is my time to decompreess. "Providence, last stop. Providence, last (mumble)..." The conductor shuffles through the car, enthusiastically and clearly announcing that Providence will be the last stop. I smile.

The train pulls into the station 28 minutes later and I patiently wait to get up the stairs. This station rarely has working escalators so departing and arriving passengers maneuveur and push past each other-all eager to reach their destination, each insensitive to the other's eagerness. When I emerge from the platform, I either turn right toward downtown and the bus depot or I turn left toward my wonderful boyfriend waiting in front of the State House. This is where my routine ends and spontaneity is rediscovered--at least until the next morning.

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