The Tyranny of the Tunnel

He got on in White Plains.

He had all the earmarks of a daytripper–one-way ticket to Grand Central, freshly bought Daily News, lumpy countenance and tacky salt-and-pepper blazer of a professor at a monolithic, mid-ranking state school.

He flipped through the News half-heartedly, elbows sticking a little further out in the two-seater than a seasoned commuter would allow, then took out his day planner: He was slated to “return to Maine” this Friday.

Lumpy then took out his cellphone, and scrolled along, looking for a name in his directory.

The call went through. He chatted about being on the train, about his stay, about meeting at some point in the “mid-afternoon.”

He hung up.

The train ambled along. His phone rang around Wakefield. He chatted briefly. I tuned him out.

We hit 125th and headed for the tunnel. Lumpy’s phone rang again, some peppy, annoying ring tone.

“Hi Ange,” he said.

“No, I…”

“But I…”

“I didn’t…”

“Ange” wasn’t letting Lumpy get a word in edgewise.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m….sorry.”

The train hurtled into the blackness and Lumpy’s line went dead.

He stared at the phone and thought about his unfinished business: a misinterpreted comment, an unaccepted apology, the 10 interminable minutes until his next attempt to rectify the situation.

Sucks for him.

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