Yesterday I was tired. Very tired. I was out late the night before, and that 5:45 am alarm was most unfriendly. The ride into work was without incident. I caught an evening train just a little later in the afternoon than I normally do, and this is what happened:
The train was packed, per usual. I hopped on and had to stand, which was fine, so I grabbed on to a yellow pole by looping my around around it so my hand wouldn’t come in touch with the germs of a thousand dirty riders. The first stop was Lloyd Center. People started boarding the train and not moving down the car, just congregating in the little space. I thought my airway was going to close up from anxiety and too much carbon dioxide. I had no choice but to step back and use my scarf as a buffer between the microbe-coated handle bar and my skin. (Yes, I am a germaphobe. It’s a left over side effect of my cancer-havin’ days.)
Luckily, two stops down the group of teenagers, who were actually quite polite, left the train, and there was breathing room again. I stood against wall, leaning my weight into it so I wouldn’t launch forward when we started moving again. As soon as our train reached Gateway, quite a few people exited, and I was able to grab a seat near the front of the car. Normally I would continue to stand, but I was tired and wanted to relax.
Two stops down, the woman next to me got off, and I found myself alone. Normally by this point in the green line there aren’t so many riders that we are packed like sardines. Today was an exception, and a man asked to sit down next to me. I obliged, because that is what a polite commuter does.
“Thank you for letting me sit down, ” he said, with a smile. He looked older beyond his years. A gnarly sore was on his upper lip, he wore dress clothes that had seen some action, and he had a few odd looking scars on his neck.
“No problem, ” I responded, and turned my attention out the window. I was about to grab my phone out for distraction, and until he reached his hand out to shake mine and said:
“Hi, I’m Creepy Stranger.”
His name was not Creepy Stranger, but clearly I don’t remember what his name was, so he needs an nickname. I looked down at his hand. He was sitting right up against me. There was no escape. I had to shake it.
(Oh god, here I go.)
“Hi, I’m Brittany.” I shook his hand and instantly regretted both sitting down in the first place and telling him my real name. Why didn’t I go with an alias? Gah.
“Hi Brittany, it’s really nice to meet you.”
I smiled politely. “It’s nice to meet you as well, Creepy Stranger.”
I smiled, and turned my attention to the window. I hoped he would know the unspoken rules of the train and leave me alone.
Creepy Stranger continued talking. “What, how is the bus that late? Oh man, I don’t want to wait that long. Could you read that time for me? Does it say what I think it does?” He held his phone out in front of me. It was an iPhone with a severely cracked screen.
“5:46,” I told him, and turned away.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Damn. Can you believe this screen? How do women not break their phones? I mean, I see so many women without phone covers…”
Creepy Stranger continues to babble on about women and how we don’t get phone protectors. I smile politely and say that I have one, and then make a joke about being clumsy. He tells me they want $100 to fix it. I tell him that’s too bad, and then I yawn really loudly, hoping he will catch on that I’m tired and not into small talk.
It backfires. “Oh no, no yawning yet! You can’t yawn It’s too early! We will all yawn!”
“Oh, I’m just really tired, it’s been a long day,” I said, not turning my eyes away from the window.
Creepy Stranger then tries to empathize. “Oh yeah, I know all about that! Man, this screen is terrible, but I can still see my phone so I’m not going to get a new one. I like to watch funny videos on it. They make me laugh. The hosts aren’t that great, but the videos are funny.” I look at his phone and see the AFV logo. (Great.)
“Well, we all need to laugh.” I turn towards the window. (Is this guy going to shut up?)
No, Creepy Stranger does not get the hint. “Yeah, I live in Oregon City, by the bridge. My commute is so long. I have to get off at Clackamas Town Center and then take the bus. Living over there is like going to hell and back.”
(Kind of like this train ride.) I bite my tongue.
His video starts. “Hahaha, that’s so funny! What is that guy doing now? Oh, that’s hilarious.” He keeps babbling about his videos, Clearly trying to get my attention or anyone else’s attention. The guy in the seat across looks at me with sympathy. I manage a weak smile.
“Oh, I love this show. Hahahahahahaha! Oh gosh, what a crazy dog!”
(Okay, we are at the Foster stop. Maybe I can just get off and wait for the next train. Shit, it’s 5:15. I don’t want to wait any longer to get home. Oh god, what if he is going to stalk me to my car? Maybe he is going to kill me, steal my car, and bury my body somewhere. If he starts following me, I’m going to walk to the mall. Yes, that’s a good plan.)
“Hahahahaha, this is great. I wish my screen wasn’t broken. Seriously, I could get this screen fixed, but I would just break it again. Hahahahahaha!”
(How many more stops are there? Fuck, we still have Flavel and Fuller road. Seriously, I think this guy is going to stalk me and kill me.)
(This is how I’m going to die. And I had so much I wanted to do. Get married, start a family, go to Europe, learn how to make lasagna…and it’s all going to end when Creepy Stranger smothers me with his nasty old peacoat and throws my body into the truck of my car.)
“Oh, man, these videos are great!”
(I wonder where he will dump my car. I wonder how many people will go to my funeral. They better not bury me. I don’t want to rot in a coffin. I will haunt the shit out of everyone if they stuff me with formaldehyde and put me in a pine box.)
“Well, it was nice to meet you, Brittany.” I look up and Creepy Stranger gets out of his seat and smiles at me. I look at the reader board and see we are at the Fuller stop. (Wasn’t he supposed to get off at the mall?) “You too,” I say, and watch him exit the train.
(What the fuck.)
My train starts moving and a few minutes later finally arrives at the my stop. There are three transit cops checking fares. Naturally, they ask for everyone’s but mine.
Another day, another transit nightmare.
Until next time.