Single Serving Friends

I’ve discovered a new place to write my blogs when I’m trying to kill some time – aboard the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train from the Bay Area to Sacramento.

For those that aren’t in the know I commute to the Bay Area every Monday. It turns out to be a long slow day beginning at 4 am when I roll out of bed and struggle to get in the shower. Mike picks me up from home at 5 and we dive into the rat race of life with a few hundred thousand other idiots who head in the same direction for the better part of 150 miles. Some 11 hours later I end up on the 544 train back again a little worse for wear, but heading in the right direction – home!

It’s kind of weird riding the train. As you recall I used to fly a lot (like 100,000 miles a year) and I ended up with this term for fellow passengers – single serving friends. You meet them once, you’re realistically never going to meet these people again. Single serving. Just like the milk and sugar they give people on the plane.

The train on the other hand is a little different. Sure it’s full of single serving friends too, but there are familiar faces. You get all sorts riding the train. Most of the faces bury their heads in their computers or books, donning their headphones to shut out the rest of us. A socially acceptable way of being unsociable. I’m guilty of the same on more than one occasion – after all you really don’t expect to ever meet these people again.

Then occasionally you actually end up talking to some characters that are just funny, entertaining and generally help the time fly by. Maybe they are frequent travelers, maybe they are just on a one-way trip to somewhere new. Maybe they are just like me – doing nothing more than going from point a to point b trying to kill the time getting home.

Debby always ends up talking to single serving friends on trips and it usually drives me nuts. I never really related to why she wanted to talk to complete strangers about her life and theirs, only to never meet them again.

Just lately I think I’ve begun to realize a little about why she does – sure it kills the time, but some of the people you meet are actually kind of interesting.

Tonight I was entertained by the two kids seated at the table next to me riding to Sacramento. Full of life I’m sure the intent of both of them was to meet everyone who got on the train. Most of the passengers did what most people do – they yacked in their cell phones, covered their ears with their invisibility shields and disappeared into some alien world known only to them. And they all looked miserable. Wrapped up in their own reality, surely being lost in the worries of baggage each of them carries every day.

But these two kids had other plans. One of them was going home to Sacramento to visit his mom. He goes every two weeks and, despite the ‘entertainment’ factor of the journey I got the feeling he can’t wait until he has his own car to drive the journey instead. It won’t take him long once he does his first drive to realize what the commute pleasure is all about!

His friend was traveling back from San Jose from her first ever visit with her newly found sister. They had been separated at a very young age and a couple of weeks ago her sister found this girls MySpace page and got in touch. They now have a new connection and new purpose in sharing the things that are important in life. How cool is that though? To find your long lost sister on MySpace?

I never got their names, but that didn’t matter. They were enjoying life because they could – they made me smile and realize there’s more to single-serving friends than meets the eye. Maybe Debby was onto something a long time ago…

Safe travels.