Starting this challenge on September 1st was impeccable timing because on this day in 1897 (114 years ago), the Boston T had it’s first on-time scheduled run (and I’m sure it was the last one that was on time, jk, but really). Over the past year I’ve been commuting solely on public transit to work and to various other places on the weekend like Maine or NYC. I estimated that last year I spent between 500-600 hours on the train simply commuting to and from work. The commute itself is nice mostly because I don’t have to deal with Boston traffic. Often the train goes much faster than the cars. I can read, eat, sleep, and surf the internet, which I’ve heard are all generally frowned upon, illegal, or deadly if you do them while driving, plus it’s much lower stress than commuting via car in/out of the city for an hour each day. Also, I’ve read 20+ books this past year on my commute, I doubt that driving can stimulate my mind as well as reading can.
Despite spending 500+ hours on the train, with mostly the same group of 50 or so people, I’ve only managed to meet a few of them. The automatic response in city life commuting is to put on your ipod, read a book, and keep your head down. This is goes against everything I learned growing up in the middle of Maine where everyone is helpful and friendly even if they happen to be a complete stranger. When I first left home for school I ended up outside of NYC and 2 years later I moved to Boston and since then I’ve slowly become accustomed to auto-pilot city mode. It’s simply just too exhausting to say hello to or to help out everyone you see everyday so you just start to avoid it entirely. I’ve learned to just keep my head down, walk as fast as I can, and get to my destination without being bothered.
This month’s challenge is about two things:
1.) Getting to know some of the people I commute to work with every day and improving the quality of that 500+ hours of my life.
2.) Challenging the city-life mentality that says it’s not ok to interact in a friendly manner with strangers on a daily basis.
On public transit I’ve found that most people are extremely receptive to conversation once the conversation has been initiated. I have seen this to be true in both NYC and Boston over the past 6+ years. People love the opportunity to talk about themselves, just as long as you’re not slowing them down or keeping them from reaching their destination. So wish me luck on this challenge, I’m sure I’ll have lots of great stories to share as the month progresses (good, bad, and indifferent).
As always, feel free to provide comments, concerns, insults, or suggestions on how I might improve my daily interactions. You can reach me via the comments on this blog, via Gmail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @YoungandUrban.