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.


Mike Hoth said...

I saw quite a few middle-aged men during my time in Chicago, and many of them looked confused as well. Helping out a handful of tourists on my last trip back made me feel like it was still home, since I knew exactly where I was and they couldn't tell east from west.

I too have been mugged in a downtown area, but I'm not sure it was my youth that kept me calm. It might have been having my wife standing behind me that pushed me to keep calm!

Anne in Salem said...

The St Petersburg train is the only train that really worried me because I couldn't read anything. At least in the European cities I have visited, I could decipher signs roughly from my various language knowledge. In the US, I worry only about the body parts that usually end up nose-level for this height-challenged girl.

Mass transit is rarely designed for the visitor or the rookie. It is designed for the locals who know all the nicknames and cross streets and station names. But sometimes getting lost can lead to a lot of fun!

Sriram Khé said...

Wait ... are you sure it was not your wife who mugged you? muahahahaha ;)

Taking the transit in an alien place is fun. But, it is the going underground that always makes me tense :(

Ramesh said...

Middle aged ?? Dream on my friend :):):)

Anne - The Cyrillic script isn't bad. Better experience would be to get on to a train in China or Japan ! For that matter, here's an idea for the subway challenged blogger. The ticket price if a flat price in Beijing metro. Doesn't matter where you go. Why don't you go there, get on to the first train that comes and simply go wherever it goes, repeat the same thing when you get down and spend a full day people watching ?

Sriram Khé said...

Would enjoy doing the thing you describe ... but, ahem, can you fly me out to Beijing? please, please ;)

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