Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | February 22, 2010

The Train…

The train has been my main source of transportation for 4 years now. After my car was totaled I became a regular passenger.

My sons frequently ask “Daddy when are you getting a car?” I look and smile then say “soon.”

On DC metro trains I’ve witnessed varying stories daily.

There is the “angry with my job but I must go” commuter traveling Monday through Friday. The dreaded “Rush Hour” between the hours of 5am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm they have a look on their face that would change the mood of the most jovial person. When they are not scaring babies with malice illuminating from their heart, they stay buried in newspapers or technology. The life of this commuter seems to diminish with each passing day of riding the train.

The next rider offends all riders. Not with their mouth but with BO (body odor). The stench sits on them like an old worn out glove steeped in raw sewage. Sometimes it’s from hygiene but other times it’s from the garlic lover. Those garlic cleanses that light up the train car seeping through pores, traveling to singed nostril hairs of all who happen to be near the offender. At that moment I thank God for the extra scents on my collar and begin sniffing profusely until my stop or the offender departs.

What about the tourists? It seems that they miscalculate the amount of walking that is required then get on the train as a group wearing the same shirts and carrying a collective funk of fast food, bad diet, sweat and not enough morning washing. Did I just see grandma with a shirt too?

Sometimes my rides are peaceful. I can write, think, read or listen. My mind takes a break from my day to day. The rhythm of the train cars gliding over the tracks puts me in a meditative state. Then a group of kids who seem to lack home training enter my serenity and continuously assault me with profanity. The volume that penetrates my ears appears to be a beast that was unleashed after being refrained in school all day. Where are their parents? Maybe on another train being “angry with my job but I must go.”

I’ve lived in NYC for a few years. Spent my time performing, learning and networking with great jazz musicians. After moving back to DC I travel to NYC for different gigs. The NYC subway trains have a special charm to them. The musicians providing mini concerts at various subway stops, the rodents who greet you at any time with a smile saying “welcome to NYC”, the smell of urine all over the city (human and animals), the mountains of trash, the crumbling dwellings still occupied and the con artist with heart wrenching stories that change depending on the train you are on. I wonder if people ever walk up to them and say “excuse me, you’ve been using the same story for years. When is it going to change?” I guess they think “if it ain’t broke, why fix it.” It always amazes me the two extremes in NYC. The rich and the poor. The epitome of art and the suffering artist. Droves of people flocking to the city to fulfill a dream. Many failing. Though I love the New York City energy, I prefer the DC Metro area. I notice a lot of similarities among riders.

Why would they do that in public on a crowded train? Why would you explore your nose like there was a gold rush in your nostrils and your fingers are the only tools you can use to reach the prize? By the way, I’m right next to you as you … What happened to manners?

Other days there is the occasional brother selling oils or DVDs. There is no hassle just a brief announcement as if to say “these products will sell themselves so you can buy them if you like or pass.”

There are days I wonder how the conductor passed train operator school. There is no etiquette just an awareness of buttons to push at appropriate times. It seems they get pleasure in trapping you in doors when they see you enter. At other times they close the door right in your face when they see you running. I wonder if that moment makes up for the mundane routine they experience daily.

I love that I don’t have to drive home after a late night gig but there are times I wish I could avoid the drunk riders. A drunk’s words are sober thoughts? They enjoy their nonsensical conversations with a cloud of toxicity that can turn the strongest stomach.

Each day is a surprise riding the second busiest metro system in the country. Will there be more broken escalators in the morning? What about the safety standards? I appreciate the cleanliness of DC Metro but wish they would stay open longer especially since they are hiking fares once again. I guess the overtime bus drivers will receive another unaccountable raise.

So many faces, so many stories…

The Train


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