Tuesday, September 1, 2015

let me please introduce myself

I left my house this morning pretty much like I do every morning. I descended the two steps that lead off my front porch and walked along the paved path that bisects my tiny front lawn. I stepped down two more cement steps and I was on the public sidewalk. I strolled down to the train station that is just at the end of my block. As I walked, I checked (like I do every morning) to make sure I had my phone (I did) and my monthly train pass (I did). I could sense that there was another pedestrian several feet behind me. This was not unusual. At this early hour of the day, my street is fairly active with commuters making their way to the train station. I turned my direction into the train station parking lot and continued up the slightly inclined blacktop towards the train platform. As I walked, I could hear the "thump-thump-thump" of a wheeled suitcase being pulled along the uneven sidewalk behind me.

I continued on to the platform. A small contingency of people had already gathered and more were joining them from cars parked in the lot and other routes from the network of sidewalks that terminate at the station. I walked to the far end of the platform and took the regular spot in which I stand to wait for my train. I pulled my phone from my pocket and tapped the icon of the SEPTA app. (SEPTA is the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, who supplies a regularly-late train each and every morning). As I scrolled through the various pages of the app, checking on the status of my train, I could again sense the approach of someone.

"Hey since we live on the same street and I see you every morning, I thought it was about time I introduce myself." A short, gray-haired man stood just inches from me. He thrust his open hand in my direction, in anticipation of a consensual shake.

"I'm Matthew." he added. 

I couldn't clearly make out his face, as the bright morning sun was filling my line of vision with blinding light. I was also caught off-guard and I did something, given ample time to consider my actions, I would never ever have done.

I shook a stranger's hand.

"I'm Josh.," I heard myself say and, again, I was surprised to hear my own voice saying those words to a stranger.

"Pleasure to meet you, Josh.," Matthew replied. Then he walked off to reunite with his wheeled suitcase, the one he had been dragging on the sidewalk minutes earlier.

I will gladly admit that I am not the friendliest person that ever lived. Well, once I know you, I am friendly. Actually, I am a pretty good friend to people I know. But, getting to know me... ah there's the rub. I am cynical, sarcastic, suspicious and, yes, misanthropic. I don't like to talk to strangers. And, in a million years, I would never blindly introduce myself to a total stranger at a train station — just because I see them every morning on my street. I have seen a lot of people every single day for the past eight years of daily commutes on the train. I don't know any of their names, where they live, where they work... nor do I want to.

But, this guy... this Matthew.... does this mean he's my friend now?

I should have taken a later train today. Or stayed home.

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