I do one of two things on my morning and afternoon train commute from work to home and back again each day: listen to my iPod or read a book. If I can’t be bothered doing either of these things, I simply observe the other humans on the carriage. This afternoon, for example, I managed to do all three. I had a hectic day at work and on days like these I find it hard to focus on downtime once I escape from the confines of the office environment. On my ten minute walk to the train station, I listen to a podcast on my iPod. It was basketball related, and while I generally enjoy the banter between the gentlemen on their daily pod, I was simply too wired from work to give them my full attention. So I got to the train station and cracked open my book. I am currently reading David Wong’s slightly excellent John Dies at the End. I am quite enjoying the story so far (I’m roughly halfway through), but again, I think I had fried my brain from the day’s work and therefore needed to truly zone out on my 45 minute commute back to my lovely family.
So I did.
I sat behind the veil of my dark aviator sunglasses and just observed my fellow man (and woman, I’m not made of stone). I saw them paw at their phones like they were life preservers. I saw them check out each other. Some read books. Some listened to music. Others conversed.
One gentleman, who stood before me as I sat down, was reading something on an ebook reader. At one point he pointed his arm toward the floor, thereby affording me a perfect view of the words on his virtual page. They looked instantly familiar to me:
I am suddenly bludgeoned with a barrage of memories – some good, some bad, a few which fall into neither category – as I pull up to the verge of my parent’s home. Instead of filling me with feelings of warmth and nostalgia, as memories often can, my stomach ties up in knots and I instantly feel nauseous.
My words. Unless my eyes deceive me, this gent purchased – and is actually reading – my book! He stands before the very author of the book he is (hopefully) enjoying! Such a surreal moment I have yet to experience! I almost didn’t know what to do next.
The train stops at the next station, and several passengers disembark the carriage, leaving many seats vacant. The man – my customer, if you will – takes the seat directly to my right and resumes reading my book. I try to think of something witty to say to break the ice.
“I admire your choice of reading material,” I remark with a grin.
The man looks up from his device and shoots me a glare like I’d violated an unspoken sacred code simply by conversing with him. “Huh?”
“The book,” I say. “I’m familiar with it.”
“Good for you,” the man says. “Now fuck off.”
My point is not getting through. He thinks I am hitting on him. How do I convey to this man that I am the originator of the very creative output that he is ingesting? More, how do I do so without coming off like a total and utter dick? Too late.
He resumes reading. I want to tell him to stick with it; that this is a somewhat slow part of the story and that its building to something bigger and better, that he just needs to see it through.
My stop is next. I get up and turn back to say something to my unbeknownst customer, possibly offer to sign the inside…oh wait, it’s all digital nowadays. Fuck. His face is buried in his device. Maybe this is a compliment to me. Perhaps he is engrossed by the narrative that I so richly fleshed out. Or maybe he just wants me to know that he doesn’t roll like that.