May 22, 2013 —
We are all creatures of habit. My morning routine, in order to make the train at the crack of dawn, depends on a number of things happening. One, my clothing must be laid out the night before (if my tie is going to match); two, my lunch must be packed and in the fridge; and three, the pups have to come in after being let out for their morning romp. (Dexter and Toby, please don’t chase the deer today.). Finally, the car must be gassed up and ready to go, and I need to leave 10 minutes early in case there are any problems driving through Hawk’s Nest. I am up and out the door in 40 minutes every morning like clockwork. All that’s left is getting on the train and sitting in “my seat.” Yes, even though the 5:05 train has capacity for 575 passengers and there are maybe 15 people (tops) boarding at Port Jervis, this creature of habit has his “own” seat. Specifically the third two-seater on the left in the back of the fourth car is where I call “my seat” every morning.
Imagine my dismay, as I boarded the train a few weeks ago only to find someone was sitting in “my seat.” How dare this stranger be sitting there; didn’t he know? Hey that’s my seat! Couldn’t he see the look on my face, as my brain tried to wake up and figure out what to do? He must have heard my disgruntled grunt as I turned to walk back to the third car to stake out my new claim. I purposely plopped into that seat and grunted again, as if he could hear me in another car. Arggg.
Two stops later at Middletown, NY, I was awakened by a disgruntled grunt—identical, I’m sure, to the one I had let out earlier. There above me was a woman with the same look I’d had—the doesn’t-he-know-this-is-my seat look? Her face told the whole story. She stayed in the car and gave me an evil glance as she sat down. I should have said “Look lady, you don’t understand; some guy took my seat first,” but I didn’t. I couldn’t really go back to sleep and noticed at the next stop the lady was now the victim of the now familiar stare and grunt. This was becoming fun. At every station until Suffern, someone in that car had been displaced, and all had the same momentary look on their face of “hey, that’s my seat.” (By the time the train rolls into Suffern and new riders get on, they know they’ll find that the seats are mostly taken; they are in survival mode. The real game is at the Ramsey 17 station when it becomes a game of musical chairs as riders scramble for the few remaining seats. For them there is no “my seat.”
Riders from stations farther up the line have no love lost for those at Ramsey 17, because on the trip home, they are the first ones off the train. Often I see people stopping what they are doing or waking up for a chance to watch the Ramsey Scramble, or even better, closing their eyes to pretend to be asleep so those riders can’t squeeze into a three-seater.
Yes, creatures of habit can be cruel, too. This creature is fine, as long as no one is in my seat.