Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: The Metro

The D.C. Metro may be one of the most unlikely places on earth for anyone to gather inspiration, but for a writer, it's a treasure trove of material.  I don't ride the Metro very much these days - maybe once every other week if I go to the movies with LNRB and Sarah - so I am still able to enjoy it (I'm sure if I commuted on it every day all those sweaty lost souls would be a nuisance rather than a resource).  I don't get to be "alone" very often either (without Jack, in other words), and I had always hated being alone up until having a baby.  But now I relish those rare moments where I can get lost in a crowd.  There is an unexpected sense of freedom that comes with simply walking without a stroller and a diaper bag.  I feel like my old self again.  I can put on my head phones and grab a book and pretend to be completely absorbed in either one of them when really I'm checking out all the people around me.  I learned the great art of people watching from my mother when I was young, a very useful skill when you have to wait eons for a ride at Disneyland, for example.

The other night I met up with Sarah and LNRB for dinner and a movie (tapas and The Beginners; both were very enjoyable, although I suspect the pitcher of sangria may have helped).  On the way into the city, I was so excited to see a man I'd seen on another recent metro trip that I had half a mind to say hello to him.  He wasn't someone who would stand out to most people, and I'm honestly a little surprised that I remembered him, but there was something about him, with his slightly squinty eyes, gray beard, and spare tire that reminded me fondly of my father.  He also had a tooled belt that looked to be adorned with dragons and castles from where I was sitting, which was pretty fabulous.  Besides, what are the odds of getting on the same exact car of a train as someone, at rush hour when the trains come every few minutes and there are a dozen cars on every train?  I made a deal with myself that if I see him again I have to talk to him. 

On my ride home the train was pretty crowded and I was forced to take a seat next to one of the homeliest men I've ever seen.  He was short and overweight, with a bulbous nose, a hairy back, and several unfortunate moles.  He was also sweaty and emitting a rather unpleasant odor, but I didn't have the heart to move.  Sitting next to him, I couldn't help but feel like my life is pretty damn good in the great scheme of things.  I get down on myself a lot, about my writing, my looks, whether or not I'm a good wife and mother, but imaging what kind of a life the man sitting next to me must have helped put things in perspective.  Maybe I'm wrong - maybe this man invented some million dollar computer program and is actually surrounded by friends and adoring women.  I hope so.    

There was one other person who caught my eye on the metro ride home.  She was a woman in her thirties, pretty in a very conventional sense, with glossy brown hair in a pony tail, a diamond cross around her neck, wearing a pink blouse, black tweed shorts, and a pair of black leather sandals.  But there, clawing its way up her ankle, was a tattoo of a black panther, the kind you see on heavy metal albums from the 1980s.  It was so completely out of character with the rest of her appearance that I was absolutely fascinated.  I felt like I'd just gotten a glimpse of the rebellious teen she'd once been before she married an accountant and became a soccer mom.  I know there's a short story in there somewhere.

That's the thing I love about people: every single one of them has a story.  And you never know when one of those stories could end up in one of mine...


kerry2642 said...

Wow.. love the story.. and love the Lady with the tats.. I wasn't a rebellious teenager.. by any means but..when Ihad my 60th b'day.. maybe I rebelled..and got my 1st of my 4 tats.. must say I do not regret any of them as a matter of fact I have # 5 on my agenda.. hats off to the wonderful strangers that you have written about.. and oh yes I to am a huge people watcher.. everyone of us are amazing!!! hugs.. "AK"

Peggy Eddleman said...

You're so right-- everyone has a story! I love the tattoo lady one.