take care

Every day I take the Caltrain to work. My routine is fairly consistent. I tend to miss at least one of two possible buses to the station. On good days days I am able to stop at my favorite coffee shop before boarding. Most days I arrive at the Palo Alto station without incident – coffee in hand, newspaper scanned, and still considering what the morning ahead will bring.

Then there are mornings like today -where I miss my both buses and yet somehow manage to make it to both the coffee shop and train in time. As I walked to the station I couldn’t help but smile thinking someone was looking out for me today. When I arrived riders were lining the entrance way instead of  climbing into the cars. Immediately I suspected why.

In the past 10 days there have been three fatalities on the tracks. Only one is a confirmed suicide, the other two deaths remain under investigation. However, last year there were 16 casualties – the majority suicides.

What I am about to admit is something I am not proud of, something I am more than a bit ashamed of. Upon learning of the delays I immediately turned to my friend and said, “I hope it’s not another fatality.” But I didn’t say it out of compassion. I meant it because I had an important interview scheduled for the morning that had taken me two months to line up. I just couldn’t miss it.  In truth, I was frustrated by what I interpreted to be the selfish actions of another person and how it affected the commute for thousands of people. But stepping back, who was really acting selfishly?

When I was finally allowed to board I took my seat and pondered the possible causes of our delay. Signal failure? We had yet to hear any news from Caltrain officials and I checked the news wires from my phone – no releases had been issued. It wasn’t until a conductor made an announcement around San Mateo that we learned why were were singletracking it down to the South Bay: there was a fatality.  Immediately I felt guilty. Immediately I had a new perspective on my day.

Moments later I looked out the window and saw something I never expected to see -the wreckage of another human being. I am not going to describe the scene. I will just tell you that I immediately brought my hand to my heart and felt sick. Passengers across the way kept asking questions. I could understand their desire to learn more. Who hasn’t looked at a car accident on the highway and craned their neck to see more? Curiosity is the human condition. But what a difference being across the aisle makes. The divide between knowing too much and not enough. The distance between wanting to see another sun rise and feeling you’ve seen enough.

I cannot imagine the suffering this person endured to make the decision they did this morning. I cannot imagine the pain their family and friends will suffer upon learning their loved one’s fate.

These are truly stressful times we are facing. All I know is that now is the time to look out for one another – to ask each other how we are and mean it. To consider someone else’s feelings before we act.

When I shut the door to my cab at the Menlo Park station I talked to the cabbie. I felt the need to confess my initial reaction to the delays.

HIM: “Everyone is under so much stress.”

ME : “I know. I feel guilty for feeling stressed about my day earlier. Someone isn’t here anymore.”

We chatted for the rest of the ten minute ride to my office. When I left I handed him money and said “Take care.” And I meant it.

So take care today all.  I hope you are doing well.

2 thoughts on “take care

  1. I can’t believe no one has commented on one of your deeper posts yet.

    One of the things that make you such a good writer, beyond the fact that u can spel gud, is your ability to self reflect and share those musings with the world at large. Good on you.

    and I hope you’re doing well too.

  2. Thanks Crites. I know I can always count on you to put your neck out there first. I hope you kicked ass Saturday. Let’s catch up soon.

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