Companionship and Commuting


What we pay attention to goes a long way towards what we can be thankful for. What if complaining was framed as being ungrateful for that moment? There are a few aphorisms that apply here, “Everything is relative,” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” “It’s all a matter of perspective.”

This morning I was momentarily annoyed with my position on the T. I had a seat, but I was sitting between two people, and the man next to me was much larger than myself so was taking up more room. He wasn’t by any means taking up more space than he should have been, but he was just there, and so was the lady to my right- whose Pantene conditioner was too noticeable for my comfort.

Almost as soon as I thought this though, I realized that I was so lucky to be in a seat, knitting, on a not too crowded train and on track to get to work on time. How dare I complain? Once this mindset had entered my early morning awareness I started to appreciate the people next to me. How funny, I thought, that people sit smashed together, in silence, trying not to squirm too much. I had considerate neighbors, and though we didn’t speak, I felt a companionship with them, a communion in our common trajectories. We all contributed to our space with our consideration, and shared 45 minutes of companionable calm. In most understandings, the term “companionship” is reserved for longer term arrangements, for relationships that are exclusive and serious. No reason though, no reason why companionship can’t be fleeting, yet felt. It was a gift really, to feel like a part of the larger goings on in the city just by meeting elbows with strangers.

May we all find more ways to be thankful in this holiday season and beyond! If there are any ways in which you’ve shifted perspective towards the positive I’d love to hear about it.

The Folk Singer and Your Commute

Sketches of the crowd at the Royal Oak in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sept 14th 2015

Sketches of the crowd at the Royal Oak in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sept 14th 2015

One night in Edinburgh not too long ago, my mother and I set off on an adventure. A not so overly adventurous bus ride from the top deck later we arrived at a tiny bar, The Royal Oak. We had heard from a lady on a previous bus ride who was holding a cat and who we were therefore talking to, that this place had live folk music every night. So we walked almost all the way in, heard no music, looked blankly at the few people inside and backed out. We went down the stairs instead of up, we found the water closets. Helpful but not the point. Outside on the sidewalk we knew we had missed something. Mom goaded me into going back into the bar by myself to check if there was indeed to be live music that night, so as she peered in through the cracked door behind me I walked the very few feet to the bar, upon which we heard the first strum from a guitarist in the corner, previously blocked from view. My original question obviated, I ordered one Blumer’s hard cider and two half pint glasses and made a bee-line for the stools Mom had already snagged.

How close we had been to missing out! How close we now were to the singer and the bartender and everyone else in the place! The room was about 15 x15’ excluding the bar, and the singer/guitarist was a big man with a big voice. As we were there a bit longer, and as we eventually finished the Bulmers between the two of us- never a surety- more and more people began filling in the spaces between people sitting around the perimeters. People were crowded, but they were also united. Everyone was there to listen and enjoy this man’s singing and playing. We heard Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Animals- and many traditional Scottish folk songs as well. House of the Rising Sun and Loch Lomond were particularly poignant spontaneous group singing experiences. At one point I was told to move forward because of my height, or lack thereof, it was really very thoughtful. The music and the confined space had brought the crowd together as a group, helped of course by the friendly and slightly steampunk-ish bar staff and teasing singer.

Crowds feel a bit different to me now, even in crowded and less friendly Boston being open to the possibility of kindness has definitely helped. Two other people talked to me on public transportation today, and both were lovely. The interaction made us smile, and I felt so lucky to have had that on the way to and from work. I can imagine now that even in the square footage of the #96 bus, all of the commuters could be happy and have a sense of togetherness. Sometimes awesome bus drivers bring this out in bus groups, but for the most part it’s how people just interact with each other. Do what you can, if you can, to make your commute better by being kind in some way to the people around you. And let me know how it goes! I would love to hear about it.