One day last week, as I waited for my train home to leave the station, I listened to a group of women with very strong Boston accents discuss their beauty regimens.  It was fascinating to my Southern ears. 

I learned a great deal about the diversity in hairsprays used by women living in the Greater Boston area.  One woman swears by AquaNet.  Don’t you dare convince her to give up her lifelong loyalty.  Though others laughed, she stood her ground.  Then there was another woman who is a committed Sebastian Shaper Plus user (a kindred spirit).  Then they moved on to cosmetics and other beauty products.

Altogether, I was intrigued by their discussion, but there was also a part of me that wondered whether their talking would cease at some point so that I could finish my magazine.

Welcome to public transportation, your daily reminder that you are not the center of the universe.

If there is one truth that is shoved in my face every day during my commute, it is that I am one person among many.  Many people who have places to be.  Many people who aren’t completely awake either.  Many people who juggle many hats in their lives. 

I am not the only one who needs to get to work on time, so I will not be the only person frustrated about not finding room to squeeze myself into the sardine can known as the subway during rush hour. 

And it’s exposing.  I’ll just go ahead and tell the whole world wide web that I am sleep-deprived.  My mother would say I have been since the fourth grade.  Although it used to be out of perfectionism during my school days, I can no longer use that as an excuse.  It’s mostly lack of discipline in getting to bed on time coupled with a need for more sleep now than I used to need.  So, it is fairly common for me to struggle to keep my eyes open on the commuter rail early in the morning (or the evening).  On more than one occasion, I have wondered whether the person sitting right next to me is disturbed by my nodding head getting dangerously close to their shoulder.  Do they wonder why I just woke up and still can’t stay awake? 

But I just have to deal with it.  The privacy is gone.  The silence is gone.  Most of the autonomy is gone. 

It was jarring at first, after three years of commuting alone in my precious Honda.  I had never realized how much I appreciated the freedom to talk on my cell phone (oops – safety police, don’t come find me), listen to music and actually sing along to it, or just sit in silence.  And it was an adjustment that I couldn’t leave home five minutes later if I needed to do so.  That train would not wait on me, and I would be late to work.

But now, eighteen months later, it’s become my norm. 

It’s not what I would choose, but I think it’s the involuntary nature of it that reminds me, once again, there’s a world outside my self-centered universe.

At least that’s what I’ll tell myself tomorrow morning when I climb on board.