Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Travel much? I don't, not as a matter of my daily, regular life. I have lately though. Two months ago I took a plane from Wisconsin to New Mexico. I know they've made those planes smaller, pretty soon we're all going to be sitting on the wing of one of those Styrofoam airplanes we had as kids hoping for an updraft. The 6'5" guy sitting next to me didn't seem to notice, but maybe he thought the natural place for his elbow was in my ribcage.

Two weeks ago I took a train into Chicago. I like those train rides. Not too long, not too short. I forgot to bring any reading material with me though and really picked a bad seat because I was facing away from the rest of the passengers. No one to observe. Fortunately a couple of  Great Lakes sailors out for the weekend sat behind me and kept me amused for the entire train ride. Their plans included a lot of "bouncing" from here to there and I'm guessing from their plans to "bounce" to the 5-25 club, whatever that is, a lot of alcohol.  Am I getting older or are our sailors getting younger. They looked like they were 14.

On the train ride home I was once again left with nothing to read. I don't know why I'm so compulsive about getting where I have to go with time to spare because I had plenty of time to stop at one of the shops and pick up a magazine or a paper, but I didn't. Instead I got on the train and waited for 20 minutes until it was departure time. I wasn't worried, though, because I figured I'd just amuse myself the same way I did on the way into the city. I'd just eavesdrop on people's conversations and come to my own conclusions on what kind of life they were living.

Well only in my world does a person get on a train and figure out about a fifteen minutes later that the entire car is filled with deaf people. You can't eavesdrop on deaf people, at least I can't. Besides the fact that I don't know any sign language except I love you, a few letters and I think the sign for Mother, it's rude to stare. And once again I chose a seat in front where even if I wanted to stare, which I didn't, I couldn't without turning around. I spent the entire ride sitting in front, staring ahead and wishing I had remembered to bring my book.

Last week I had a meeting in the "industrial" part of town. Have you ever noticed how much people use their horns in those kind of areas? Is it because they're used to noise? Do they have more to say and they say it by pounding on their steering wheel? Are they just angrier? I was startled over and over again by the sound of horns. Were they honking at me? Was I going the wrong way? Are they long lost friends of mine who also happened to be cruising the industrial area trying to find the right building?

Traveling can bring out the best and the worst in people. Whether you're a giant man who thinks that because he's just large and not over weight he gets to take up his space and mine, or a young sailor excited about getting some time off and enough alcohol to last him until the next weekend, or just your everyday person who gets behind the wheel of your car and suddenly thinks that everyone else on the road is their enemy or at the very least trying to sabotage their plans to get where they are going, I think how you travel says a lot about who you are.

At the last stop on my train ride the deaf man who sat in my peripheral vision stopped and signed something to me. I hope he was saying "Have a nice day" and not "Bet you wish you'd have remembered a book, huh?"  

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