Observer Creative Writing Corner: This Stop

By Joshua Richey

This stop: GROVE STREET. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

I do this every day. Well, almost every day-often enough that I’m not surprised when some robotic male voice talks to me about where I’m going and what I should do. When you do something this much, one of two things will happen. You’ll either get so habituated to the situation that you’ll stop noticing what you’re doing, or you’ll start looking into things that you really have no business looking into. I’m in the latter camp when it comes to riding the lite rail. I’m not going to fluff myself up by saying it’s because I’m quirky or observant, I notice things because if I had any less stimulation in my life I might be considered legally dead.

This stop: SILVER LAKE. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

When you ride the train, (which I’m assuming you’ve done, if not, go live a little and visit me at Grove Street) you can see that people behave very differently than they would in other social situations. On top of the standard rules New Jersey Transit has put in place, like needing a valid ticket to ride (which, if you’re a gambler, you can ignore), there are unwritten rules of the rail. The only one that’s entertaining enough to bother writing down is this: Don’t get caught looking at someone, no matter how beautiful or ugly they are.

This stop: BRANCH BROOK PARK. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

I can assure you, there are more than an adequate number of funky looking people to stare at on those crowded rail cars (myself included). Which makes it even more difficult to pretend not to notice when your ultimate fantasy of the hour is standing right in front of you. So where do you look when everywhere you turn you’re confronted with crater faces and glorious rear-ends? You look up.

This stop: DAVENPORT AVENUE. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

No, not to god. Well, it couldn’t hurt, but if you try to hand me one of those pamphlets while we’re stuck on the train together I’m going to decline it. There’s something about that kind of religious outreach that feels all too industrial. I understand that if you really believe in something, you want as many people as possible to know. But don’t shout at everyone on the train and throw around reading materials to try and meet your quotient of lost souls for the day. If you want to tell me about your beliefs, talk to me like a human being and I’ll listen. But no, I’m not talking about looking to god, I’m talking about looking at the advertisements above the windows.

This stop: BLOOMFIELD AVENUE. This is the train to: PENN STATION. Are you even reading this anymore. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

They make good reading material for about 10 seconds, but you really get the most value out of the experience by pretending its taking you the whole train ride to read them. That way you don’t keep nervously glancing at the woman sitting across from you with the lazy eye. Those ads make me feel like NJT has a negative view of its customers though, since half of them are about paying child support and not abusing your elderly relatives’ pain meds. It’s pretty good advice, but screw them for thinking I need to be told how to live just because I take public transportation.

This stop: PARK AVENUE. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

Next to these advertisements about behaving responsibly and having “good” moral character, the ads about phone plans seem a bit out of place. But it makes perfect sense that they’d be there when you realize that they advertise a no-contract phone. In a world where people are tied down by commitments, (in this case, a commitment to children they may not want and a commitment to a reality unaltered by medication) the last thing they want to do is restrict their freedom further through a contract with the phone company. So I imagine the intended message of these ads is that, although you have to sacrifice your freedom in many other ways, you can have a small amount of your very own personal independence for 40 dollars a month.

This stop: ORANGE STREET. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

Now all of these presumptuous ads and awkward glances are making me upset, and the train isn’t breaking the sound barrier so I can get to work on time, so I need to find a way to express my displeasure. Maybe I’ll assault the train conductor, it must be their fault. Besides, It’s so much easier to blame someone in a uniform. BUT WAIT! This, the most important of train ads (as its placed right at eye level near the doors), tells me that NJT employees are protected by the law, and that assaulting them is against said law! Phew, that was a close one, maybe these ads aren’t so bad. I think I’ll send my estranged children some money when I get home today, if I ever come down off of these pain pills that is.

This stop: NORFOLK STREET. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

The light rail is truly the melting pot of society. Nowhere else in the world can you find so many people  of different races, religions, and sexual orientations all sitting uncomfortably and judging each other. (except maybe on the internet) I never really liked the term “melting pot” to be honest, I get what people are trying to say when they use it, but it carries a negative connotation for me. When a bunch of different foods are in a melting pot, they’re not there because they want to be, they’re there because the cook put them in. So is that what we are? A bunch of vegetables lumped together out of convenience and necessity by some force outside of our control? Then I don’t see how anyone could take so much credit for diversity if it’s just going to happen whether we want it to or not. (I’m looking at you Rutgers)

This stop: WARREN STREET/ NJIT. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

I know that some people would prefer to keep their vegetables separate, though I’m not sure how you wouldn’t get sick of eating the same thing all the time. All I’m saying is that I want to enjoy my damn salad and all of its diverse flavors, I don’t want the cook to come out of the kitchen and tell me about the work he put into combining the ingredients.

This stop: WASHINGTON STREET. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

I’ve been trying to write something for the paper recently, but nothing is grabbing me and I can’t bring myself to finish any of my stories. I’m not sure why I even started writing for The Observer if I don’t like writing in general. I enjoy talking about my ideas much more than writing them down, and therein lies the problem. Most people are too busy talking about their own inconsequential bullshit to listen to my inconsequential bullshit. I guess the paper gives me a way to talk to people when it’s convenient for them to listen.

This stop: MILITARY PARK. This is the train to: PENN STATION. You must have a valid ticket to ride this train. Please present your valid ticket upon request.

Shit. I missed my stop.

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About rutgersobserver

The official student newspaper of Rutgers-Newark.
This entry was posted in Issue 11, Volume 78 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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