April 15, 2008

An interesting commute

There was apparently a lunatic on the train this morning. I didn't see him, but I heard him. I get on at the end of the line and board the very first car, which becomes the very last when the train pulls out of the station. I always get on at the middle doors and sit facing the direction the train will be going as it heads towards the city. Because it's the first/last station, there are usually only a handful of people in the car until we get to the next stop. So, this morning, I could clearly hear him behind me, at the farthest end of the train, a single voice muttering, growling, occasionally raising in volume to repeat one sentence over and over.

Homeless folk often accumulate enough change to buy a subway fare, and then take the train out to the suburbs. Sometimes they get off at my stop and I see the same people on street corners near home that I've seen on street corners near work. Other times, they curl up to sleep and just ride the train back and forth along its route. The ones who don't sleep are often very vocal. I remember one woman once who entertained the morning commuters with songs from My Fair Lady and a story about how she and her sister learned to play those songs on the piano as children. I listened to those songs and that story probably ten times in the course of my 40 minute ride that day. What is it about repetition that so appeals to the insane?

When I heard the guy this morning, I briefly considered getting off and waiting for the next train, but I didn't. I stayed in my seat, exploring my varying sensations of revulsion and fascination and wondering just what there was in me that inspired each.

At each station, the train filled up with more passengers. Within a half-dozen stops, other voices had drowned out the babbling lunatic one, and I wondered about the reactions of the people boarding that far end. Were they repulsed, compassionate, embarassed, apathetic? How many of them wondered who he was and what might have brought him to this state of being?

I wish now that I had turned around and gotten a look at the guy, so that I could watch for him on the street corners downtown.

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