Before I moved to the east coast I thought that people taking the train into “the city” to have dinner with friends was something that only happened in the movies. Little did I know that there would come a day when the girl who was born in North Dakota, grew up in the Midwest, and had dreamt of one day being an actress would become a woman who thought nothing of catching the train and enjoying an evening of laughter and conversation.
I’ll never forget the first time I took the train. I got to the station a good hour ahead of time and stood shivering on the platform while my heart raced and I hoped that I was in the right place. I wondered why the platform was nearly empty and why the few people that were milling about were so relaxed, reading papers and books, plugged into iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and not a single one of them was watching the sign above the track that displayed the arrival of the train and its destination. Didn’t they know that it’s important to be nervous and constantly watch the sign in case there was a last minute change?
I was slightly less anxious on the return trip, although being startled awake to a deep voice shouting “Hilfe Mir!” accompanied by a loud and insistent pounding from inside the restroom door convinced me that the locks must be overly complicated and an experience that I should avoid.
How things have changed; now I arrive along with everyone else, five minutes before the departure time, I listen to my iPod while I write on my iPad (yes I know I could listen to my iPad, but I have yet to sync my library), and I barely notice my surroundings on the train or in the station.
Last Friday I was treated to a complimentary makeover and I looked fabulous when I boarded the 4:55 pm train into Philadelphia. The hour flew by as I caught up on emails, read posts from a few of my favorite blogs, texted with Dan to confirm where we were meeting, and did some writing of my own. I opted to follow the few people who were hiking up the stairs rather than joining the crowd of people that were jam packed on the escalator.
Although I’ve become comfortable traveling by train, I still have a moment of panic when I reach the top of the steps and need to figure out where to go and whether or not I’m in the right meeting place. The hectic pace and lack of human connection as people pass each other without making eye contact always makes it worse. I looked around but didn’t see Dan. I stopped and realized that even though he wasn’t there yet, I didn’t feel flustered and there was something different about the station. I thought I heard music and I felt a sense of calm and quiet. I was puzzled because there’s not even Musak let alone music piped in over the speakers in the waiting area.
I felt a pull in my heart and I walked toward the source of the beauty, I had to see where it was coming from. The lump in my throat grew when I spotted the two young musicians not only playing but moving in perfect harmony and they drew bow over strings in an unspoken unison. I put a few dollars in the violin case and took a seat on one of the benches.
As the haunting melody filled the air the people in the station were still, everyone was just listening. A group of strangers tied together in a moment of community through music. The song concluded and the room erupted with applause and my eyes with tears. We weren’t people waiting for a train or for a friend to meet us, we were unexpected guests at an impromptu concert in the middle of the Market East Train Station.