The Silver Line bus wasn’t as crowded as the T had been but it was still standing room only. Pressed firmly between a door and a lawyer’s oversized book bag, reading was out of the question. Alertly, I squeezed my oversize book back into my TIMBUK2 bag and pulled out my smartphone; it was time for a few quick rounds of Candy Crush.
Quick aside, if you haven’t downloaded Candy Crush by now, don’t do it. The free, mindless fun that app brings quickly becomes a time suck that is hard to pull away from, unless of course you run out of lives (ugh!). Add in the fact that it is no longer as cool as it was to play the game, you thusly become uncool by association. But, assuming you are like the rest of the world and you already have the app, play away and make sure you don’t tip Odus over!
As the bus rolled slowly underground, I tried again to beat a tricky level but again it wasn’t in the fruits. It wasn’t helping that my phone was essentially pinned to my chest and I was playing with a single thumb but I like excuses when I lose so that was why I lost. Obviously. After two stops, the bus quickly went from standing room only to pick a seat so I did, a window. Unfortunately, and quite unnecessarily, someone sat next to me. I need to start owning my space more.
Even though I was free to once again pull out my book, I chose to stay on my phone in lieu of fighting for the necessary elbow space my book required. Sure invention of Kindle’s, iPads and other digital readers do offer some literal room to read but I prefer physical, two hands required books. And my oversized book was my excuse to continue playing Candy Crush.
Another stop passed and the bus finally emerged from the safety of the underground tunnel. The foggy day caught my attention and pulled me away from the overly addictive game. Boston, even when overcast, is a beautiful city but knowing that I saw this section of the seaport area every day, I turned back to my game. Before moving another fruit, I noticed that my seatmate was also playing Candy Crush. Quietly elated, I felt suddenly connected to this stranger. Maybe it was his obvious good taste in games, or his similarly styled hair but I didn’t care; T friends!
When the stranger got off at the next stop, the last before my own, I realized how wrong I had been. We hadn’t been connected in the least. Looking around the now mostly empty bus, every single passenger had headphones on and eyes peeled to their smartphone screen. The instantly, observable loneliness was suffocating but also expected. Why wouldn’t you, me or anyone sequester in public space? It’s not like people are instantly going to talk to the turnstile of strangers on their daily commute but still, it was a sad remainder of our lonely existence.
Sure riding the subway during rush hour is comparable to driving your car, it’s busy and typically frustrating, but the difference is the proximity to other people. Being able to, or forced to as is often the case, physically touch fellow commuters is different from sitting alone in your car next to someone who is alone in theirs. Headphones and smartphones allow for the same escape for others as your car, even to the point of inexplicable rudeness that not seeing someone again affords, but it is all just so depressing.
Are we are all just cattle on a longer path to slaughter. In a society where time is currency, there are countless hours lost every day during the daily commute and yet those hours are typically wasted. We block out the outside world and just follow our routines, slowly and surely just shuffling forward. Yeah we can influence our mood with the books we choose and artists we select but too frequently we don’t just look out the window and experience the world around us.
Though not visibly startled, I slid my smartphone back into my jeans proceeded to look outside. Passing the Captain Phillips-esque cargo ship, I vow to try and enjoy the outside world and be a bigger part of the environments through which I pass. Jaw clenched and mind entrenched, I stand to get up for my stop when my pocket buzzes twice. It’s a text. Oh the temptation to quickly break this newborn vow. The sliding bus doors part and conflicted, I step into the chilly Seaport air…