I’ve been turning an idea over again and again in my head for weeks, that on my days off I should purchase a day’s train pass (I usually ride my bike or walk everywhere), and ride back and forth from one end of Boston to another, my face buried in a book for an entire day. It’s because I haven’t been reading enough books lately. I’ll take in a short story from a collection here and there, maybe start a novel on a Tuesday and bookmark where I left off, knowing that I might not open that book again until Friday, maybe Saturday. It’s unhealthy.
What’s great about reading on a train is that it’s one of the few times as a reader when you can actually multitask. As you become entranced in your reading, the train (or bus) briskly (or not) escorts you to your destination. And there’s all that noise, and it’s coming from the rails, like a bowling ball perpetually colliding with the pins, and it’s a good noise, because it drowns out the sound of the conversation taking place next to you, which would ordinarily distract you from your reading because you’ve been working on that short story for weeks and thus eavesdropping on conversations all over the city just so you can figure out the way to transcend the page and imitate real life. People will get on and off as they please, on their way to work or a matinee flick or the auto mechanic, and you don’t even notice them. And you know when your stop is, you don’t even have to look up, you’ve learned the hurtles and bends in the track, the whine of the rails when the train comes to a stop, the rush of air that pours into the car when the doors open, and you know how it feels when daylight illuminates the car once you’ve finally emerged from underground.
So this is that rare tribute to public transportation. Though we despise your tendency to delay our comings and goings, and your rancid smells, and your short stops, and your fares, and your (often but not always) rude employees, and your less than stable infrastructure, and your inefficient routes — though all of that we could certainly do without, we’ll take you for who you are, simply because you give us time and a place to read.
The Where We Live series is chance to travel to all the different places that writers and readers live, in a deeper sense than simply geography, but the mental and emotional space they inhabit during their creative lives. Interested in contributing your own Where We Live? Check out previous entries and send us what you got.
*Painting courtesy of Edward B. Gordon