I first detected something was going to get in the way of my blissful ride when I noticed the woman in the freak seat turned sideways facing the people behind her. Talkers.
Most of us know, or at the very least someone on livejournal or I have written the unwritten rule that there is to be no talking on the morning commute. None. If you must communicate with the person sitting directly to your side, make sure it is not a breath over a whisper. Don't even turn that phone on. We don't want to hear it. You are the only ones talking. We are all here in this small space trying to ignore each other. Don't make it harder. We all want to catch a little more shuteye, catch up on our reading, or do the damn crossword. Do us all a favor and don't make an ass out of yourself.
I considered switching cars or waiting for the next train, but the lure of the open seat was way too tempting. As I was situating myself with puzzle in lap, I noticed the gal sitting in front of me and the one in front of her exchanging looks of exasperation with one another and chuckling under their breath. The guy next to them seemed to be in on it. They'd giggle and then and look in the direction of the talkers, now obscured by a few passengers standing in the aisle. After watching the ladies in front of me with a satisfied smirk on my face for a few minutes, I leaned forward and said to one of them, "you guys give me hope. I thought I was the only one."
"Oh, noooo", she replied, "you have no idea how long this has been going on. 6 stops? 7 stops? It never ends. We've heard about how they got drunk last weekend, how one of them got a new dress, how in high school, junior prom was better than senior prom--did you know junior prom was better than senior prom?--and about kissing." I was a little surprised at the topics on the floor, as The Talkers seemed to be early-thirties office worker types, but nevertheless, I had to believe her. Between my downs and acrosses, I'd tune in and out of The Talkers conversation and chime in with the snarking ahead of me.
The train spent longer than usual at one stop and then grinding noises started coming from below. The Talkers turned out to be stand-up comedians as well, wondering louder than they had been talking as to where the food service was. I leaned forward again and said to my cohort, "if we are all truly going to hell, the train is going to break down."
ATTENTION PASSENGERS, THERE IS A SWITCH PROBLEM AT THE ROSSLYN STATION THAT IS CAUSING DELAYS. WE WILL BE STOPPED HERE FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO MINUTES
She shook her head in amazement, cursed me for jinxing the ride, and I swore to keep my mouth shut. The train fired up again soon, and we were off. The Talkers had somehow gotten onto the topic of how they hate airlines and that American is the worst, and how they had to fly from Detriot to somewhere else recently. "See," one of the ladies in front of me said to the other, "Midwesterners. I called it." We hoped they were getting off at Rosslyn. They didn't. I tried to calm myself into thinking that people who talk about proms and kissing *must* be getting off at GW.
One, thankfully, did. The Talkers, contrary to all of my assumptions about them thus far, didn't know each other before they got on the train. They had become The Talkers in the last 45 minutes, and now that one of their ranks was departing, the separation anxiety that can only be felt by three perfect strangers willing to carry on with one another to the chagrin of everyone around them for nearly an hour was about to set in. "Good bye!" "Good bye!" "Nice talking to you!" "Nice talking to you, too!" "Merry Christmas!" "Merry Christmas!" "Bye!" "Bye!"
The ladies and I stared at each other wide eyed and waited. Would the two remaining Talkers carry on the tour or would they disband now that they've lost a member? Like so many Def Leppard drummers of yore, they weren't going to let the loss of one appendage stop the music. The beat went on, at least for another stop, and when the second of the three prepared to disboard, we were back to the refrain of goodbyes and Merry Christmases. The doors closed and there was silence.
Not to weigh this entry down with metaphors, but it was eerily reminiscent of those old Twilight Zones when after the bomb had dropped, the fallout shelter refugees cranked open the door and stepped bleary-eyed out into the light. It was over. I filled my lungs with a deep breath and felt like a survivor. For one more stop, I would know peace. I looked over at the last sitting Talker. She was scanning the crowd with a knitted brow thirsting for contact. She was alone; her buddies had fallen, and all she was left with was the memory of their presence and the newness of the tranquil train.
I was about to start feeling sorry for her when the doors opened at my stop. The guy and one of the ladies in front of me stood up. "One stop of peace and quiet" one said to the other, who replied, "I can't believe you guys are all leaving at the same stop!" Maybe we too had formed a bond. All I knew is that I had found some fellow urban commandos and I was proud. I have said time and time again that it is the responsibility of the few to inflict courtesy and common sense on the public transportation ridership. I had found more riders like me and here I was, abandoning my platoon.