punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

The short and the tall story

When I worked retail, I got to see a lot of people. Especially when I worked in malls. Even if I worked in a store where many didn't come in, I watched. And I get to see a lot of people on the Metro. And let me tell you, while it is wrought with "mundanes," a lot of these people are pretty weird.

I couldn't classify commuters. I tried, thinking it would "be funny" to group them by type and post them in my blog, but I don't find characteristics stay within any subgroup, and so I am left with fleeting characters day by day that defy classification. What I notice says more about me than anyone else. I wish I could write my thoughts as I go on the subway, but I am a terrible note taker. I tried to by cell phone, and all I got were badly-spelled jots of thoughts I barely remember.

Jot 1: There's a girl about 1 foot to my right. She's short, barely 5 feet if that, and while she's not short enough to be considered "little person," she probably uses her stepladder in a week more than most of us do in a lifetime. From the back, she looks almost like she's a little girl, but when I saw her profile, I knew she was probably in her mid 20s. I wondered, "How did I know this?" I am very bad at guessing age, but I can tell 12 from 25. It reminded me of so many kids I have seen trying to pass themselves as adults, and how much they blow it by trying too hard to act casual instead of being casual. I wonder if this person gets carded? How do I know she's not 12? Is it her clothes? No. Is it her makeup and hair style? No. I think it's a look adults have. Kids tend to be rather blank and wide-eyed, whereas adults take on a more jaded look. They stop pretending to be older and just act their age, more or less. Her hand in less than 3 inches from my face; she's holding onto a pole next to where I am sitting. When I am sure no one is looking, I study her fingers. She has short nails, probably home-manicured in no special way. Her fingers are bony, and I can see some of her metacarpals flex and twist as they try and compensate for the train moving. One of her finger has one very thin ring. The silver band is almost like thread, and it clutches a small turquoise stone probably no bigger than a grain of rice. She probably got it for $3 for a bunch of them at some place like Claire's. I like its simplicity, and I bet on a hand as small as hers, a big stone would emphasize her smallness. Her eyes stare off at nothingness, and her face is relaxed and looks a little sad. Is she sad? What is she thinking about? Anything? She looks too jaded to be a child.

Jot 2: A large man has sat next to me. Unlike most passengers, he does not care that he's pushing me against the window. He makes no effort to shift his body weight, and it forces my shoulders into a forward position. He is not fat in the classical sense. He's very tall and broad, maybe 6' 4" with dark curly hair, a large nose, patchy curly stubble, and wearing a dark business suit that looks quite expensive. He is reading a book about families, I think, either a biography or a book about families in general. About ten minutes into the trip, I feel his arm muscles shift and relax. Without even looking, I know he's fallen asleep. I look at his face, and his eyes are closed, and the book droops precariously in his lap, threatening to let slide a bookmark made from a 3 x 5 index card. Suddenly, his phone rings. It is very loud. I am listening VNV Nations "Arena" in my mp3 player, and it comes through my earphones almost loud enough to startle me. It's some stock tune that came with his Sprint phone. It rings long enough for other people in the car to notice. Just when I wondered if it was MY new phone, the man wakes up, grabs the phone from his pocket, looks at the LCD screen face, and decides to take the call. "Yeah?" he asks. In my mind, I make a mental note to start answering my cell phone in public either "Mushi mushi" (Japanese) or "Ahoy Ahoy" (1800s). The choice of words, "Yeah?" seems to signify he knows the caller, and is a bit surprised to get the call. His further conversation supports my theory: "I'm at Ballston. Ballston. The metro station Ballston. In Arlington." He seems to get slightly annoyed he has to explain Ballston to the caller, as if that was a superfluous comment that has now sidetracked the conversation to an unwanted focal point. I am jealous he gets cell phone reception in the Metro tunnels; my Cingular is nothing but dead air and 0 bars. "I'll be outside in a minute," he goes to explain. There then follows some innocuous conversation for a few seconds, where apparently there was some task he was supposed to do in the near future, which he says he can't do because he's on the Metro, and anyway, he said he'd do it later. He then looks at his phone, and I see "Call ended ... 0:53." Now he is more upset, and I guess he got cut off. Part of me, the jealous part, giggles silently at his fate. We exit the tunnel as he puts his phone back in his pocket and gathers his stuff. He seems aggravated that he's pushed so close to me, he had restricted his arm movement, but I literally cannot take my shoulders in any further. He does not look at me, it's almost as if I was a non-person, just some obstacle he has to deal with on his own no more personally attacking him than a rain cloud. He stares straight ahead and does not move for the next few stops. Finally, he gets off at West Falls Church, using his very long legs to stride ahead of everybody within a few well-placed steps. He is gone, and my body sighs like a deflating set of bagpipes that had been crushed against the train wall. I try and jot notes, but misspell so many things in my haste to record my thoughts, that later I just use them to jog my memory. "bg tal man puch sid me," is an example.
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