I know, I pitied the nice young man (young in this case means, I am guessing, about 25) for not knowing not to talk, but I do it all the time too. Sometimes it is great.
One thing I dislike about E-readers is that it takes away the fun of seeing what other people are reading, because then you can’t tell if you have similar tastes without talking, and if they wanted to be talking to people they wouldn’t be using an E-reader. A different nice young man and I had a great conversation once based on my reading of Open Veins of Latin America and his reading of a book on Chinese medicine. I have asked about and been asked about books, and I enjoy that.
I have also talked to parents of adorable children, the inventor of an ingenious bike bag which I hope he ended up marketing successfully, and one animated conversation with Cathy on our way back from seeing Black Power Mix Tape got us into conversation with some men who had actually known a lot of the black power leaders growing up. Being open can be really good. It can also get kind of weird.
My last weird story occurred on a fairly crowded day. I found an empty seat. Technically it was two seats, but on the other side there was a bottle of Coke, partially drunk but with the cap on, and a bag of Doritos, opened, partially empty, but with the top folded over.
I didn’t feel quite right touching and moving them, but I also did not want to be the jerk keeping someone else from sitting down because I had spread out my stuff. I was worrying about this, and I noticed a kid (late teens/early twenties) who was standing looking at the seat. I made eye contact and told him he could sit, and he looked at the stuff, questioning, and I said “I don’t know where that came from.”
We were just pulling into Beaverton Transit Center. He approached and I really thought he was going to sit down, but instead he announced “A munchie’s a munchie, and I’m stoned.” With that he grabbed the treats and got off the train.
I thought that was pretty disgusting, and a reminder that drug use impairs judgment. To be fair, I had recently been listening to three riders discussing their arrest records, and one of them bragged that he had not been booked once because he had MRSA on his foot, and the prison nurse rejected him. (The police dropped him off at the hospital, but he didn’t go in.) I’m just saying—there’s no telling what might be lingering in that Coke and Doritos.
I think the one I will remember most will be this one. It was another crowded night, this time on the bus. I had a seat to myself, but one more person got on. There were other seats available, but I could see that he was very hesitant, and I know how unfriendly people can look. knew he would only sit down if someone signaled him. I made eye contact and smiled, and he sat down. That was just the right thing to do on my part, and he was grateful, which was fine. Then he started nervously making small talk, which had me feeling like no good deed goes unpunished.
I told myself, Gina, you’re a nice person; don’t leave him hanging. I made myself listen and ask questions, and he was such a nice man with such a crummy life. He was a veteran, and he had gotten an injury in the service which ended up affecting his whole life, because it led to other health conditions, including the loss of his pancreas, which meant diabetes. It was a lot to deal with, but he was so sweet. So then I was thinking, no, I’m not a nice person. I’m a jerk, and I should know better. They’re still all children of God, no matter how tired and worn-down I am.
It was a humbling experience, and there have been others like that, and I don’t really like to talk about them, because there are often sacred elements where I want to keep them close in my heart, and I might share in person, but it’s not something casual.
I’ll give you a different one, that is less touching. Once, earlier in the workday, I had been thinking that I wanted to be a source of warmth, where people would just be drawn to me and know they could trust me. That evening, when I was waiting for the train, someone started talking to me, and it was like, oh, maybe I don’t want that.
And that’s the thing. As an introvert, it is easy for me to not engage with people. Working from home will make that even easier. I will have more time to recharge, which is good, but I could also be very selective about whom I see, which is less good. I probably don’t need to be more of a curmudgeon.