One Monday morning at a summer job, when I was an age that tempts many older people to refer to you as “a baby,” a co-worker I’d never seen before told me she owned the same top I was wearing and would be walking the halls in it herself on Thursday. I normally go out of my way to prevent this “We’re Twins!” extravaganza from happening, so it wasn’t great news. But I grew more preoccupied with the idea of planning a week’s worth of outfits in advance. If I did that, I figured, I wouldn’t be late for work or for play.
I signed off on every piece of clothing and jewelry I wore to work last week the night before. It didn’t get me out the door any quicker. Unless I have a meeting, or otherwise suspect that any tardiness could hold another person or system up, there are mornings when I’m not quite as punctual as I technically could be. Sometimes it’s due to reasons outside of my control: my neighbors and I were trapped inside of our building’s foyer after the inner door handle developed a dastardly mind of its own; a manhunt for an escaped prisoner delayed my train; two tied-up pit bulls excitedly encouraged me to come over for a meet-and-greet and it would have been inhumane not to pay my respects. Other days, the reasons aren’t as riveting.
(Incidentally, the older crowd still refers to me as “just a baby,” and to my face. It’s dismissive.)
Baby occasionally rides a morning train she’s nicknamed her really-pushing-the-envelope late train. Its uncrowded last car contains an older passenger who is currently her favorite person in the Tri-State Area (no need to get to know him, that could ruin everything). She gets off before he does and they exchange big, show-me-your-teeth smiles on her way out, wishing each other good days. The ritual uplifts her.
After I’ve crossed paths with certain souls more than twice, I find it impossible not to speculate about the lives they strongly lead or sadly follow. Where are they coming from? Where are they headed? Why do they look so distraught when they think no one is watching? How empowering might it feel to successfully catch the same train (same car, same seat) every day - or is the lack of variety adding to the distress?