Monday, June 8, 2009

On the train

Would it be possible to be a professional people-watcher? I write this on the train from New York City’s Grand Central Station to New Haven, CT and am reminded that people-watching is half the fun of travel. I sit and study the man across the aisle from me. He is a businessman in a fuchsia and yellow striped tie and is eating a bag of Doritos while reading a newspaper. There’s a chewed pen sticking out of his shirt pocket and beads of sweat are on his brow. His shoes are perfectly polished.

The man behind him has his laptop appropriately on his lap and all I can see is his face above the seat as he types. Every now and then he grins at the screen.

Farther down is a white-haired woman whose hair is in two buns behind her ears. She reads through pink glasses and wisps of hair keep falling in her face. Her hand brushes them back repeatedly.

The rest of the train is a sea of foreheads and hairlines sticking above the seat backs. A group of businessmen is having an animated conversation at the far end of the train car, and every now and then a hand flies above the seats to accent a point. The train noise drowns out their words but their foreheads are smiling.

A moment ago the conductor took my ticket and nicely answered my questions. He wore a blue uniform and a sharp blue hat. Does he like his job? He seemed to.

Scenery is passing in a blur: rock walls, a glimpse of tombstones on a hill, air conditioners jutting from apartment windows.

The man by me tilts his Doritos bag and pours the crumbs into his mouth. The white-haired woman turns a page. Am I as mysterious to them as they are to me? I sit with suitcase and water bottle, my red hair the only red in the mass of head tops. I wear sensible traveling shoes and a new ring I bought in Midtown Manhattan and I constantly scribble in a notebook. Do they know I write about them?

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