I have two train stories today.
On the morning commute, there was a college writing professor sitting across from me, reading papers. About two stops in, a burly young man wearing ID badges from the local VA, and those hung on a lanyard that said MARINES, sat down next to her. All of a sudden, through my earbuds, I hear her yelling at him that he’s touching her. I look up and she is pointing to where his jacket hem is in the crack between the two seats. I hear him say, quite calmly, “ma’am, you are touching me. He scoots forward on the seat, and folds his hands over the top of his cane. For the rest of the ride, that woman rode him, elbowed him and complained at him.
It’s only because I have been less than on my best game that I didn’t think to say to her “Don’t make me separate you two. I’ll turn this train around if you don’t stop.”
What I did do was this: when the train stopped downtown, and all three of us got up to leave, the woman made eye contact with me. I pulled my earbud out and said, conversationally, “You know, even with the headphones on, I could hear you bitching at that man.” This made her think I agreed, apparently, because she immediately launched into the “he was sitting too close to me” rant, but I interrupted her. “No,” I said. “You were rude. It would have been rude to talk that way to anyone, but the man is a veteran, fer Christ sake. Show a little respect and appreciation.” She started to squawk, and I interrupted her again. “No. You were wrong. You were rude. Period.” And stuffed the earbuds back in and stalked off the train.
The ride home could not have been more different. I was sitting near a young black couple and their adorable son (corn rows and a Miami Hurricane jacket). I was working on one of my nellyphants, and she asked me what I was knitting. I pulled a finished-but-for-his-ears nellyphant out of my bag, and she grinned. “It’s an elephant, but he doesn’t have ears yet. Still, if you wouldn’t mind…” Oh, no, she said, she wouldn’t mind at all. So I gave the ear-less nellyphant to her son. He dug it and started playing with it immediately. The father kept telling the little boy to say thank you, but he was too busy playing. “It’s OK,” I said, “he’s too shy.” They told me that he had just turned three on Valentine’s Day. What a great present he was, I said and the mother smiled. Then the father said “he may not say thank you, but he can say the President’s name.” We asked the little boy who the president is, and he piped up, loud and clear “OBAMA”. I just about cried.