“what we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.”

I’m incredibly shy by nature—that might come as a surprise to some of you who know me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m much more verbally confrontational than most folks. I’ve turned up the volume on my life and tuned up my observation skills…not only because I think these are paramount to full societal membership…but also because most people just don’t seem to care… about anything!!

I do contemplate how certain individuals can continue along the path they’ve chosen. I’m in no position to tell anyone how to govern their own lives, or instruct them on proper interactions. But…here are things I witness every single day on a micro level that just… irk me…

The other day, I stumbled down the escalator in the metro and darted onto a train just as the doors were closing. It’s not like me to get on a train without being absolutely sure it’s going to the right station, but sometimes the allure of darting in between the automatic doors is too much to resist. As soon as I sat down, the conductor announced that the train would be terminating in a few stops. When the doors opened at every stop, the conductor announced that the train was a “special” and would be ending early, and thus NOT going to the end of the line.

I disembarked the train at the new “end of the line,” as had been announced by conductor as many times as there are stops on the whole metro line, still reading my book. When I looked up, there were still about half a dozen people sitting on the train… not noticing that the train was stopped, that everyone else had gotten off, or that the doors kept opening and closing. One guy in a coal colored overcoat dug his hands deep in his armpits and seemed to incline his head and listen closer to his ipod. A couple sat with paper grocery bags on their laps, staring straight ahead at the other guy sitting across the car.

A grizzled and grimy older man with a cane and an awkward gait ambled up to the train and rapped on the door with the rubber tip of the walking stick, barking, “this train is out of service!”

And yet the passengers remained (I suppose because he looked a little “off,” no one listened to him). Another man managed to shout the same message as the doors opened and closed like trash compactors. The guy in the coal overcoat finally got the hint and barreled through the door just as it was closing again. The couple with the shopping bags got to their feet slowly, but by the time they reached the doors, they had closed again. The overcoat man shoved a few gloved fingers between the doors and ripped one back to the right (I should note, these are not like elevator doors, they don’t stop if they close on a limb, nor do they magically reset after being jarred). Everyone was finally out of the train car… and the door was now jammed in a half-open position.

POINT BEING… these folks had a whole train ride, with multiple audio announcements and visual clues that this particular train was not going to the rest of the stops… and yet they failed to be observant. This whole encounter happened in just a few seconds. No lives were lost–everyone was fine—the trains continued to run on time.

Or… how about this past fall… when I was walking on the sidewalk downtown during a rainstorm…

I spotted a girl in front of me, waiting for the light to change so she could cross the street. She was maybe a little younger than me…clearly a student of some sort. She had no umbrella and no coat. She wasn’t even wearing a hat. Her UGG boots resembled two aquatic rodents, and squished dark liquid when she walked. She clutched an unprotected book and a binder close to her chest, squinted against the raindrops and gave one large shiver as she waited to cross the street. It was clear to me that she had walked several blocks like this. Idiot of the week.

This was not a casual rain shower… this was a full-blown rainstorm… an all day event… forecast in advance. HOW do you leave your home NOT KNOWING that it’s going to rain? Really?? TELL ME. Everyone is sucked into their smart phones and laptops these days (ok, me too, I admit, but at least I have multiple weather and news apps)… this girl must have NOT watched TV, looked on the computer, listened to the radio, or, heaven forbid, LOOKED OUT THE WINDOW. It’s mind-boggling.

What has happened to permit this type of behavior… this lack of responsibility for our actions? There’s that… which is aggravated by the fact that others don’t seem to care about what’s happening around them. A bunch of drunken kids jumped off the metro platform on a Saturday night, and were playing round on the tracks dangerously close to the third rail. I said, “hey kids, let’s not do that” (in so many words– “stupid” might have been included too). I was the only one who said anything to them.

Be involved in the world (she said wisely). Being present and not passing through life with the conviction of a wilted piece of spinach is not that difficult. If you have all five senses intact, please use them.

Thanks.

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