…that took off from Grand Central Station on November 10th, 2010. I stopped at White Plains. You gave me a dirty look because I was a little too anxious to get through the doors leading to the platform. I wasn’t being rude to others. I wasn’t rushing. I was waiting, with eyes cast down, struggling to not burst through the doors to get to the hospital as fast as I could.
This isn’t supposed to make you feel bad. It’s just to make you more aware of the people who are riding your train on a daily basis. As I think back on that fateful day, I remember that quick ‘fuck you’ look you gave me because I was trying to get past people on the train to place my feet on the platform.
Just a little note, Mr. Conductor, in which I’m sure you’re aware, yet it’s worth reminding – there are people who sit in your seats everyday who are walking, talking beings dealing with personal catastrophes they can’t reveal. That is – unless they explode in screams of agony until the men in white coats come to get them. Most of us carry around a heavy load. Some people may be stressed from the work day that has ended. Some have a load of problems at home. Some of us may have just heard their mother had died via a voicemail message that was left while we were in the dead wifi-less ionosphere of the 125 tunnel.
That was my situation that day. I received a call at my desk at the New York Times. My mother was dying. I left the office and grabbed your train. The 5:19pm train to Southeast, possibly even Chappaqua. I retrieved two voicemail messages – one from my 1/2 brother, another from my uncle telling me my mother had indeed died. This was when we were whizzing by Bronxville. I think. Let’s just say it was Bronxville. It’s a pretty town. I can’t remember because I was in shock. And I was stuck on your train with a bunch of strangers, ready to burst in sobs.
When you give a double bitch look to a customer who is in deep thought, whose body is floating in unconscious mode for sheer survival under the weight of massive shock, anxious to move, just move out that door – it’s not about you. It’s not about me having to get to someplace before anyone else, or just another moody commuter giving you grief.
And having said that, I hope that bitch take you gave me when I was looking at my phone and waiting for the doors to open, wasn’t because someone had just yelled at you, or gave you a problem. Perhaps you had a loved one at the time who was ill, or your home was being taken away, or your parent was in a hospital bed dying. If that’s the case, I’m sorry. But four years later, and despite knowing there were bigger things to deal with that evening – I can’t seem to get your nasty look out of my mind. You didn’t know it, but you were damning someone in the early, mind numbing, heart breaking throes of grief.
In the four years since, I hope you’ve opened your heart about the people whose commuter passes you view in passing, or tickets you tick off. Take a moment to understand there are walking, talking dramas all around you. Because one nasty look to someone could mean you’ve added your negative face to the memory of the day her mother died. And that isn’t good.
To all the other conductors at Metro North, I think you’re awesome. Despite this one unfortunate moment with this particular conductor, you’ve all provided good humor and kindness.
Let’s all be careful. You never know what someone is going through.
Inspired by the human stories over at Humans of New York.