Through the Morning Commute, Darkly

I hopped on at Hawthorne, as I do each day, and the car was surprisingly jammed. I made my way south and saw the open 1-3/4-seater. I don’t absolutely need the private folding seat, like some people I board with; no one’s ever diagnosed me with OSeatD. But if it’s there, I’ll probably grab it.

I was enjoying my privacy and a little mellow “Essential Paul Simon” on the iPod, the melancholy ballad “Duncan” a right match for this miserable gray weather. (Saw on Channel 4 this morning–5.25 inches of rain for White Plains this week, tops in the tri-state.)

Speaking of White Plains, we stopped, and lots of people got on. A guy lingered in the 1-3/4 seater’s alcove. My house. That happens sometimes. Someone’s looking for a seat, sees the peculiar arrangement of the 1-3/4, sees that two people won’t fit, and ventures on through the door to the next car. Once in an absolute blue moon, a thin-hipped foreigner unfamiliar with commuting custom wants to sit with you. I usually try to make room for them.

This guy was about 35. Tall, very dorky, glasses, suit. Awkward. He lingered. I ignored him.

He lingered some more. I looked up.

He gave me a goofy smile.

“Do you want to sit?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Thank you.”

I made my displeasure clearly evident; unless you’re in the scourge of slippery rail and the fleet has been trimmed by half–or you’re the aforementioned thin-hipped Euro type, you leave the damn 1 3/4-seater to the person already in it. It’s like sitting next to a stranger in the movie theater balcony, assuming there are still movie theater balconies somewhere on the planet, or sharing a love seat with someone you don’t love, or even know.

Moreover, if you do wish to sit there, you say so. You don’t linger and wait for me to offer it up.

Making matters worse, the guy was easily my height–comfortably over 6 foot. I painstakingly got to my feet, assembled my various Times sections, corralled my iPod, and let him slip into the window 7/8th of a seat next to me.

How oblivious was this guy to the mores of commuting? He next whipped out his cellphone, and made some dull call related to real estate. He then made a second work call. To be fair, he conducted a little chatterblox and was relatively quiet.

Dorky Seatmate then slipped on some giant Bose headphones and turned on his knockoff iPod. I looked over at his song selection, expecting, I don’t know, Dan Fogelberg, or something off The Worst of Bread.

“Honky Tonk Women,” by the Stones. Who knew?

The Stones actually sounded sort of good to me. The storm system had passed, and so had my ephemeral desire for Paul Simon’s middling tenor. I shifted to the oddball greatest hits package “Through the Past, Darkly” on my iPod.

The ride seems much longer when you’re cramped into a tight space with a long-legged dork. The ride was longer; we got in four minutes late.

Progress up the platform was slow too–a pair of cops, one uniformed and one plainclothes, kept a German Shepherd at bay and blocked our path. Two other cops and two other Shepherds were on board the train across the platform from ours. Still more cops watched the investigation from the top of the platform, just outside the main concourse.

I eventually got outside GCT, and saw 10 cop cars lining 42nd at Pershing Square. The sky was gray but the precip, for the first time in, I don’t know, a fortnight, was absent.

I made my way down Park Avenue South. “Honky Tonk Women” came on my iPad. I thought of the Dorky Seatmate, his irritating mug looming beggingly over me, and flipped ahead to “Dandelion.” 

Dandelion. There’s a strange guy on my block. He looks a little like Robert Plant. He lives at the end of the dead end street, and people at the ends of dead end streets are often, well, let’s just say, they’re there for a reason.

Little G loves dogs, and Robert Plant happened to walk his dog past us as we played on the lawn a year or so ago. It’s a Black Dog, as you might expect from Robert Plant. A real shag carpet of a thing.

Little G asked the guy what the dog’s name was. The guy stammered, stumbled, looked perplexed. People at the end of dead end streets–I’m tellin’ ya.

“Uh, Dandelion,” he finally said.  

Dandelion. I fast forwarded the iPod again, to 2000 Light Years From Home.

In truth, I was 30 miles from home. Maybe it’s the dry weather, but it sure felt like more than that.

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