The guy on the train
I could write this story about the drunk guy with the goofy hat that sat in front of us on the train home last night. He and his female companion were picking and poking at each other like a couple of bratty three-year-olds except the scope of their potty words far exceeded that of three-year-olds. I would have liked to wash their mouths out with soap but my husband was concerned they might start fist fighting.
They reminded us of our neighbor, who we refer to as “The Screamer,” because of her drunken (I can only assume — I have never heard a sober person swear as much as her) tirades on the phone to her boyfriend. Why he is still with her, I can’t even imagine, but she’s screaming the same name on the phone now as she was when we first moved into our house three-plus years ago (so again, I can only assume).
But this is not about the drunk guy with the goofy hat.
This story is about the guy who sat down next to me just as the train was pulling out of the station. We were on our way home from Gillette Stadium after the Patriots game the other night. Somehow it was a lot more crowded than it was on the way to the game, but maybe it’s because on the way there, most people spent the entire 45-minute train ride waiting in line for the bathroom rather than sitting in their seats. It reminded me so much of a moving frat party. It even smelled like one. If you have ever been to a frat party, you would recognize the smell of stale beer on the floor. On the way home we had the added bonus of sticky floors, vomit, and puddles here and there (outside the bathroom and in some of the aisles).
My husband and I had taken a bench with three seats and started to reduce the number of layers we had on. Hats, scarves, and sweatshirt littered the seat between us. I was texting with my oldest to make sure he was home, or at least on his way since it was past midnight and he has to be home by 12:30 a.m. (And I would rather have him plan ahead to get home in time rather than speed or be late, which are the two choices he sometimes offers.)
A guy paused next to our bench seat. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know he wanted to sit down so I moved over as far as I could next to my husband. Even as the guy sat down, he was so close I imagined my husband and I took up more than 2/3 of the bench. My husband had shoulder surgery so his arm has to be in a certain position so he really couldn’t press himself against the window any more than he was.
I tried to be small as I continued texting with my son. He had watched the game at his girlfriend’s house and gone home early because he was tired.
The guy started talking. Soon he and my husband were talking over me.
I found out the guy was from Canada. He had driven down for the weekend with his wife, who had found a seat diagonally behind us and fallen asleep. They were staying in Boston, which was the ultimate destination of the train.
I chimed in, “You don’t sound like you’re from Canada. What part?”
He was soft spoken and really didn’t have any accent at all. “Ottawa.”
Momentarily I thought Ottawa was a province, but no, it’s a city like Toronto and Quebec. I probably would have known that if it wasn’t past midnight and I hadn’t just spent four hours or so in a cold football stadium. I told him about my online friend that lives in Sudbury, Ontario, which I gather is somewhere near Toronto because she goes to Blue Jays games.
We had a lengthy discussion about poutine. I Googled, and learned that there are many different kinds of poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy), and that the name comes from the québécois word for “mess.”
I continued to try to figure out what cheese curds were. I think they’re like mozzarella. The guy tried explaining it to me — “No, it is not at all like cottage cheese” — and to be honest it does not sounds that appetizing but it’s increasing in popularity in the U.S. Rumor has it you can order poutine from the secret menu at KFC — who knew?) I continued to Google as this guy and my husband discussed the differences between Canadian football and American football.
Then we got on the subject of bagels. I learned from the guy on the train that Montreal (not New York) as the best bagels. I didn’t even know Montreal is famous for bagels, but apparently this is so. They are wood-fired as opposed to boiled. I Googled that, too. I love Wikipedia!
We talked about baseball and hockey a little and before we knew it, we were at our stop trying to figure out how to get off the train without stepping in the puddles and barf in one of the cars. We told the guy, “Enjoy the rest of your trip.”
And then we found our truck and drove home. The end.
Have you talked to a stranger lately?