Strangers on a Train

It seems all too weird. And no, that’s probably not the opening line you anticipated. No, it’s probably not the opening line you wanted. But give me some space. Let me explain over a midnight coffee and possibly an Oreo.

I was dozing off and listening to my iPod in the Quiet Car of the train. There were signs everywhere reading “Quiet Car: Shut the Fuck Up,” but this stranger wouldn’t abide.

My mom and I were sitting–some would say “hogging”–the four person four-seat area on one side of the train. Everywhere else you looked there were only two seat pairs. We were the exception. It was a pretty innocent endeavor, however. Just filling out course registration for college. I of course put my feet up on the seat across from me. I considered it a rite of passage. Here I was just having graduated from high school. Here I was not a teen but now an adult–sort of. Here I was celebrating my first summer vacation without bearing the burdens of applying to colleges or studying for the SATs or doing something to boost my college resume. Here I was in some strange man’s way.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” the man with the mini bottles of Scotch in his pockets inquired. It’s one thing to drink Scotch. It’s one thing to drink mini Scotch. It’s another thing to keep them in your pockets. But, hey, let’s not judge.

I think I just did.

He would tap his fingers against the arm rests from time, then would give my mom the “Foxey Lady” glance from time to time. Mind you, his hair was whiter than a marshmallow. He was slim as a pencil. And he had Scotch in his pockets–the miniature kind.

Then he would get up from time to time to talk to his friends at the other four person seating section. Only two of their seats were occupied. I guess they just needed leg room, or else our friend would have joined. He would do this every minute or so and hand the fellows he associated with some of his pocket Scotch. Then he would get off his ass, which he flaunted in my mother’s face each time he talked to his friend, to go get some beer on tap. Then some beer in a bottle. And let’s not forget the miniatures!

He just left, so I thought we had parted ways for good. Accordingly, I sat next to my mom (in his former seat) to do my registration business on the computer. In five minutes, there he is again! Lucky us!

For a minute or two, he just stands there next to me. He gives my mom a look, only this time, it’s not the “Foxey Lady” kind. He puts on a face, like a puppy dog expecting a bone after the owner showed it one on a screen…he wanted my seat.

“Is it alright if she sits here?” my mom asked. Now she was the puppy dog pleading with the owner.

“I guess so!” he sighed, slapping one hand onto his legs as a sign of defeat.

He left eventually, at 6:42 to be precise. But the Loud Car lived. Para siempre! Especially when a new foursome plopped down on the seats where our buddy’s friends used to sit. Chatty Cathies they were. Of course, my mom and I were also gabbing, only in a professional manner, about courses and First Year Intensives and which level of Calculus and does the AP Exam exempt me from this course? I guess our work excused us. But it didn’t excuse the foursome to our right.

“Do you realize that you’re not the only people in the Quiet Car?” That’s a quote, a real quote right there. But it’s nothing without the context. A woman behind me marched right out of her seat, stood up tall and proud, and declared their malevolence for the entire car to hear. Maybe even for the real Loud Car to hear.

And there I said it. I provided a quote with the given context. And now that I’m in the real Quiet Car, which is my temporary bedroom in Wayne, New Jersey, I think it’s time to turn off the lights and head to sleep. Sweet Dreams and next time, try the business car!

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