Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The middle ages

It has been years since I took the rapidly moving public transit trains that go underground. I hate the subway because I am a tad claustrophobic!  Yet, as I remind students in some contexts, there is a lot to be learnt from getting out of one's comfort zone.  Taking the subway is one of those uncomfortable things that I would rather not do, but I did anyway.

As the train jolted out of the airport station, I made sure I read the instructions on what one ought to do in case of an emergency.  I took out my cellphone and made sure I was seeing at least one bar of signal strength.

The train stopped at a couple of stations.  Which is when I wondered, "am I in the correct train?"

Sometimes I think that I don't gain weight--despite all the cheese that I eat everyday--because I spend way too much energy simply worrying about something or the other.  I bet that I burnt as much energy as a marathoner does, while merely sitting on that subway seat worrying that I was on the train to nowhere.

I got up in the moving train and looked at the map by the door.  I made a mental note of the station names where the train would stop if I were on the correct one.  I returned to my seat.

I looked at the young couple ahead and off to my right.  I wondered whether they thought of me as an old man looking dazed and confused.  Or, whether it is their youthful energy that makes them come across like they know what they are doing.  When I was young, even the mugging that I experienced in downtown Los Angeles did not affect my mental makeup.  But, now, I am a wimpy old man worrying that I might be on the wrong train!

The train stopped.  Yes, the station name matched.  Phew!

The train started moving.  A middle-aged man, who was in a suit and tie and holding a few papers in his  hand, turned to me and asked, "this train is going to downtown, right?"

Misery loves company.  Here was another balding middle-aged guy having the same question that I was wrestling with.

After the couple of days of conference activities, I took the train back to the airport.  As I exited the station, I looked at the transit ticket.  I had more than five dollars left on that ticket.  I did not want to waste the money.

At the ticket vending machines, I saw a few people waiting in line.  A middle-aged guy was scanning the machine up and down, seemingly dazed and confused.  I decided that he was the one I would help.

I walked up to him.  "I have five dollars left on this.  You can have it" I said as I handed him the ticket.

He looked at me completely flummoxed.  I could understand his feelings.  After all, like him, I too am a balding, middle-aged man.

He recovered.  He smiled.  "Thank you" he said.

I walked away towards the terminal, immensely satisfied that I helped out a fellow dazed and confused middle-aged man.

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