Thursday, October 20, 2011

From the morning commute...

Reality struck this week as the pleasant early fall weather gave way to a torrent of cold, wind and rain, in other words, normal weather for late October in Chicago. As I get older, I find myself a little more practical about my bike rides to work. By Tuesday with the weather reports looking particularly bad for the next two days, I had already made up my mind to shelve the bike. Any sense of denial about the weather to come was put to rest by a 30mph noreaster which made Tuesday's ride home a challenge.

Anyway, the ride to work yesterday was uneventful, the gentle rumble of the wheels along the L tracks, the muffled conversation of a few passengers, some soft music leaking through headphones, and the sound of the rain falling on the roof, were almost as comforting on a cold, rainy day as the heat coming through the vents. Even though the car was filled to the gills with riders, the car was remarkably still, until the monologue. The voice of a woman pierced the treasured silence as she enumerated her complaints to her colleague who apparently was not living up to his/her end of the bargain. "I'm just worried about you guys coming through for me" she said in a tone of voice loud enough for every single person on the car to hear. What should have been none of our business became everybody's business. It was as if the eighty or so other people in the car simply did not exist. That one way conversation kept up for about four stops until she got off the train without braking stride in her conversation, as far as I know, she could still be talking. After she left, peace and quiet took her place.

Today, similar circumstances. As it was hard to read standing up, I took an informal survey of my fellow passengers. In my immediate vicinity, two of them were reading the RedEye, one was engaged in a sudoku puzzle, another a crossword. One woman was reading an interior design magazine and two people were involved in a conversation. On the seat I was standing over, a man was reading his Kindle and a woman was surfing the web on her Android tablet. I counted at least eight people who were connected to a variety of mobile devices with headphones, some of them just listening, others listening and surfing or e-mailing. Then there were at least six more who were either e-mailing or surfing on their mobile devices sans headphones. One man read a book. Five people were lost in their thoughts and one, yours truly, was just taking it all in.

Not a soul was talking on a cellphone.

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