If someone was to ask me, “what is the most welcome change in your life ever since you took up a job with Salesforce?”, I will promptly reply there are two – I wear jeans and capris to work. It is liberating to say the least. I miss my silk blouses once in a while and I still wear them, but with jeans, not pants. (Yes it matters). And second I love my train rides. My train rides have become a part of my daily meditation. The 45 min ride from Mountain View to SF is not only my “sacred me time”, but also my time to immerse in the joys and sorrows of the world around me. I have met some fascinating people on the train in the last four weeks. I have also made some friends on the train, like an elderly pair, who keep a seat for me in the afternoonJ
I feel like my train rides are a parallel universe, where I am a self-less observer. I have no active part to play in this universe. I just absorb. Like the moment when the Caltrain driver got so emotional, because it was his last train ride. He was going to retire that evening and had a party planned with friends, colleagues and his family. He shared his joys of serving the bay area as a train operator for Muni, Bart and Caltrain for over forty years. I had nothing to offer him but my ears. And also the old granny who was going to meet her grand kids in Palo Alto. She was reading on her Kindle and looking really happy, so I casually asked if she enjoys digital reading as much as she loved the paperbacks. The conversation ran long and we discussed everything under the sun. As I discovered, her grandson had gifted her a kindle for Christmas from his first salary. He had just started working at Best Buy and got some “deep discounts”as an employee.
And then today, a more pensive one. A smart, independent Indian woman, speaking to her husband on the phone, telling him she was planning to go to NY next weekend and that she really needed some time by herself. She was not happy and the tone of her voice revealed to all around her, that she was in a rather rocky relationship. People don’t realize how much they reveal to a world around them. People also don’t realize how much they teach to the one’s around them – all unknowingly. And that’s the beauty in it. If my Mom told me, “that’s not a way to talk to your loved ones in public.”, I would scorn at the thought of someone telling me what not to do. But when I pick up this etiquette on my own, it stays with me.
Train rides are also very good source of local trivia, like the construction stories at Stanford, the new Caltrain management team, the price hikes in taxi fares in SF and of course the ball game trivia. One can also choose to participate in hot Obama vs. Romney debates, or the old and classic, recession woes. I had a woman tell me that her measure of the economy is the traffic on 101 and the number of riders in Caltrain every day. I found it to be quite insightful.
Today, one of my train buddies is retiring. She was carrying a big bunch of tulips on Friday, and I could not help but comment on how beautiful they looked. She said they were from an intern who was planning to take Monday off, but wanted to give these to my train buddy in advance. I am sure she will have a big bunch of flowers to carry today. May be I can help her with that.
That’s what train rides are for me. An alternate life where I give myself completely to the world around me. But the train comes to a stop at Mountain View, and I resume my real self, and march to the rhythm in my ears. The journey from the train to my car is the toughest one, because that’s when I am somewhere in between. Finally the engines of my ultimate machine break the sequence and I convert to the other self.. the one that is typing now.