Miscellaneous Thoughts from the Morning Commute.

It was very crowded on the subway this morning, but still I noticed the man seated in front of me reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. He was more than halfway through, and because he had stomped on my feet several times not more than a moment before, practically crushing them to the bone, I wanted to lean over and ask him, “Have you gotten to the part where she gets leukemia yet?” or some terrible-sounding lie to make it appear as though I was wrecking the end. Of course, I didn’t say anything at all, spiteful or otherwise. I kept my horrible little thoughts to myself.

The woman standing next to me was amazingly engrossed in her book; when I glanced over, my eyes latched onto the words “throbbing,” “swelled” and “kiss,” so naturally my thoughts started wandering in a certain direction. It made me extremely curious as to the title or at least the author, so much so that I tried using our reflections in the glass in front of us to get a better look at the cover. Instead I got distracted by how very tired I looked. In my defense, those dim tunnels combined with the subway’s overhead lighting and smudged windows do not paint the most flattering portrait.

Later, on another line, I noticed that no one else seemed to be reading, with the exception of a blonde woman flipping through a J.Crew catalog. I don’t think that quite counts. When I observe things like this on the subway, I always wonder, “What are these people thinking?” and “Where are these people going?” Ultimately, I ask myself, “Why aren’t they reading?”

Clearly, I realize that not all people are devourers of books, or even nibblers of books. Still — I get most, if not practically all, of my reading done on public transit. On some days, such as today, I even carry two books in my bag, just in case I finish one earlier than anticipated. (For the record, they are D.V. by Diana Vreeland, loaned to me by my friend Alyssa, and Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver, snatched off my bookshelves this morning at the very last minute. And I did finish D.V.) In my case, reading makes what could be a long, noisy and tedious ride home interesting, exciting and even too short. Sometimes, I recklessly walk and read, which might be why I trip so frequently; on more than one occasion, I’ve been tempted to stay on the train a few stops longer than needed. No catalog could even come close to claiming to be such a pageturner.

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5 thoughts on “Miscellaneous Thoughts from the Morning Commute.

  1. I’m ALWAYS paying attention to what the people around me are reading. I love it when I spot someone reading the same book as me, or a book from the same series (which recently happened with the Dark Tower series). God help me if there’s a sad part in the book… I’ve only cried once on the train, though. My latest read was a reread, so I stayed up late to read a chapter that I knew was really sad so I couldn’t start bawling on the train. And I always have to restrain myself from talking to other people about their books.

  2. I went through a period of seeing the same people over and over on my commute home, and during that time, I noticed so many of them were reading the same books as each other. I wanted to prod them together and get a conversation started, but didn’t have the nerve.

    Once, while reading a Laurie Notaro book on the subway, I burst out laughing SO LOUDLY that the person next to me got up and moved. I tried to make myself stop, but ended up shaking and crying.

    Come to think of it, if the person next to me had done that, I would’ve switched seats too.

  3. I’ve definitely burst into loud laugher while reading on the T. I don’t feel so bad about that, because a person laughing is a little less scary than a person all-out sobbing.

    I read a quote from BJ Novak (from The Office) somewhere where he said that you can tell Boston is such a smart town because everyone seems to be reading on the T. I like to think that’s true (even when I see people reading really stupid stuff).

  4. sometimes people may not read on the subway because they are between books, forgot their book, OR get queasy when reading on moving transport. i have fallen into all of these categories at one time or another…or maybe they dislike books or are illiterate. i have also been a member of these camps at some point in my life.

  5. I admit, I sometimes DO get nauseous on a particularly bumpy ride… In those cases I close my eyes and think of England.

    I just wonder though, of those people who aren’t reading and who aren’t nauseous: what are they thinking?

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