One of the perhaps meaner thoughts I have when I’m on the train is about the people who are sitting when I’m standing. In my head, I believe I deserve to sit more than they deserve to. I know that this is totally irrational and self-serving of me, but I can’t help thinking it sometimes.
Here’s where I’m coming from, though I’m not defending it. When I’m standing, I’ll often have a great idea that I want to write down, but it takes all of this effort to get out my notebook and a pen, and if I try the train will usually stop suddenly, and I’ll fall on someone. Or I’ll be reading a really great book that I have to dig around in my bag for and, again, risk losing my balance and falling on someone. Meanwhile the person sitting in front of me is playing Angry Birds. So I think, what’s more deserving? Writing or Angry Birds? I want to be like, “I have a great idea I must write down, and you meanwhile are playing Angry Birds.” Or, “I’m reading this great book called Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I merit your seat more than you.” As I’m thinking this in my head, I’m also feeling shame and guilt about what feels like severe elitism.
Today I felt even more elevated on this feeling than usual because I didn’t get a seat until we got over to Manhattan, and I had a suitcase, a backpack, and my purse. My expectations are that I will get a seat on the Brooklyn side, which is typical but not guaranteed.
If I don’t get a seat at DeKalb–the last stop before Manhattan–forget about it. I’m waiting until Grand Street, struggling to get my book or my journal out as the train teeters and slows and picks up speed and slows again and stops and slows and picks up speed. At least, I tell myself, when I stand I have a better view going over the Manhattan Bridge of everything–the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, ships and barges, the Statue of Liberty. And as we come into Manhattan, I can look below and see the narrow streets of Chinatown in the morning, which always gives me a good feeling.
Anyway I’m sure there is a very valid justification for why his playing Angry Birds is just as important as my great idea. And I also can acknowledge that since that person got on the train at a stop before me, by law of first come first serve, s/he deserves that seat. And what does it mean to deserve a seat really? Nonetheless, I will probably still continue to think this thought.