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Home for the holiday


November 26, 2013

This is the time of year when college students make their way home for the holiday break. The train was crowded when we pulled out of Secaucus Station, and I was comfortably seated by the window of a three-seater, sharing it with a guy from Middletown, NY. (We commuters see each other every day, and we rarely know each other’s names, just where we disembark.)

Shortly after we left the station, Conductor Benny comes on the P.A. and announces to make room; the train in front of us broke down and we are picking up its passengers. “This is a holiday train folks,” Benny said, “so get ready to get squashed.”

My seat mate and I look at each other with that “dam-it” look as we put our stuff up on the rack or under the seat. There is a trick to protecting your space, which is basically to lean into the middle, making the center seat look very small. Didn’t work today; the disabled train was packed indeed. As the passengers piled in, we looked up to see this college kid politely saying, “Excuse me,” as she put her bag up on the rack. The bag was almost bigger than she was, filled with laundry for Mom, I bet. She was dressed in a University of Utah red sweatshirt, hood up, pajama bottoms on. She looked dressed to un-impress while she traveled.

As she settled in, she told us she had been traveling most of the day, a real planes, trains and automobiles kind of trip. She took the school shuttle to the airport, flew to JFK, then caught the train to Penn Station, to board a train to Secaucus, to catch a train that broke down. She was having a day indeed. I made some small talk; she was heading to Otisville, the stop before mine. I assured her I would wake her up as I could see the eyelids starting to close, and in no time flat she was dead asleep.

As the train rounded certain curves her head would fall side to side on one of our shoulders, I looked at my seat mate and we both shrugged and chuckled. This went on for a number of stops, and it was cute at first, but then our new seat mate starts… to… DROOL. Wellllllll, this is where the cuteness stopped. I was the first one to give her head a gentle nudge and she sat straight up, for a while, then it was on the other guy’s shoulder, who proceeded to do the same thing. Amazingly she never woke from the bobbing, but continued to drool; this game of “ping pong” went on for a number of stops. Some of the standing passengers were smiling at this point, and then it got to be a laughing matter.