Sunday, December 18, 2016

people gonna talk

Well, it's December and winter has hit the Philadelphia area. On most mornings, I will wait for my train out on the open-air platform. On days that begin with temperatures in the low 20s, I reluctantly opt for the warmth that the small ticket office offers. I say "reluctantly" because I really have to weigh the situation. Sure, I don't want to stand out in the cold and freeze my ass off, but do I really want to subject myself to what goes on inside the ticket office?

The office (which is only open Monday through Friday from 5:45 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. — and not a minute past!), is tiny, cramped and in desperate need of a good refurbishing. It is a sad, nondescript room with high ceilings, dated, cracked linoleum floor tiles and dingy cream-colored walls. Two adjacent walls have wooden, slat-backed benches that can accommodate three people, if they are courteous enough to occupy their allotted space. Otherwise, those taking refuge in the ticket office are relegated to standing around, scattered haphazardly like prisoners in the exercise yard. The ticket agent — a gray-haired woman in a heavy fleece pullover (no matter what the weather) — sits in a separate little area behind a half-wall of glass. Small as it is, it seems to have been outfitted with all the comforts of home — a microwave and toaster oven, a radio, a small television, three wall calendars, two clocks that display different times and a plethora of snacks all neatly stacked on top of a filing cabinet that looks as though it has not been opened in decades. On cold weather days, such as today, the waiting area inside the ticket office can get pretty crowded, putting standing space at a premium. Most people wait quietly, rubbing their gloved hands together to generate heat. Others, though, choose to loudly engage their fellow commuters in some inane chit-chatty conversation.

Conversation one:
Commuter 1: It sure is cold this morning.
Commuter 2: Yeah, it sure is.
Commuter 1: My office at work is always cold, too. Summer. Winter It's always cold.
Commuter 2: Mine is always hot. All the time.
Commuter 1: Yeah. I guess it's always one or the other.
Conversation two:
Commuter 3: Oh! So, how are you?
Commuter 4: I'm good. How is Jacob?
Commuter 3: Jacob is at college in New York. How is Jacob?
Commuter 4: Jacob is good. Jacob has a new job.
Conversation three:
Commuter 5: Did you park your car in the lot?
Commuter 6: No, they're vicious in that lot. If you have a new car, it will get scratched in that lot.
Commuter 5: I don't have a new car.
Conversation four:
Commuter 7: Is the next train to Jefferson Station on time?
Ticket Agent: I think so. I'm not sure.
Commuter 7: Well, is it reported late?
Ticket Agent: I'm not sure.
Commuter 7: 
Don't you get some kind of report or notice?
Ticket Agent: No, not really.
Commuter 7: Aren't you in contact with someone somewhere?
Ticket Agent: Not really.
Commuter 7: 
So, you don't know when the train is coming?
Ticket Agent: Well, you can check the schedule.
Since the trains are usually late (my train has not been on time in ten years), the amount of time spent standing that close to this mindless, thoughtless, nonsensical rambling can wear on one's nerves. So, I have to decide which is worse: listening to this relentless blather or risk frostbite before the train arrives.

After a few minutes, I always make the same decision. I weave my way through the close crowd and brave the cold.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

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