I didn’t have a car for the first 2½ years of college, so I rode the train from San Diego to Los Angeles to visit my family some weekends. Now that I have my car, I think I still prefer train travel. There’s a certain feeling of independence and competence that comes from learning the transfers, becoming familiar with the stations, walking purposefully with my little duffel bag in tow.
This past weekend, I decided to take the train in order to avoid CARMAGEDDON. Ironically, the train ended up being delayed for over an hour and I sat on the floor of the aisle for most of the trip. I’ve experienced more public transportation mishaps than you’d believe, but even these are invigorating, in a way. They foster simple social interactions — commiseration, jokes — that remind me I’m not alone in the midst of all these strangers. Adversity brings people together, and trains seem to possess a magnetic attraction to adversity.
There is also a peace that comes to me only when I ride the train or metro. I’m always at my greatest moments of clarity when I’m sitting on the cheap rainbow-printed seats, flanked by other travelers (having semi-willingly abandoned my standards of personal space), staring at my greenish fluorescent reflection against the dark Los Angeles night. The bleak city landscape somehow crystallizes for me the senseless wonder and chaos of our miraculous world. I still can’t put it all into words, but someday I’ll be able to articulate why it is that gray train yards and empty lots are almost more beautiful to me than anything else.