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Meet new friends! Our new one is the UrbanCommuter

May 23, 2011

To borrow a phrase from the Accidental Commuter, “Life is being all Life and crap.” I have a job which requires me to blog about transit, and that makes it hard to blog some more here. That’s MARTA has two jobs, and neither are really about transit, they just keep her busy. And the Accidental Commuter is still in grad school. It’s been like nine years, but I hear she’s half way done or something. So that’s out excuses for being lazy and not posting.

But to make it up to you, I present the UrbanCommuter. He (I know! Your all girl transit blog just went and threw a man into the mix) approached us a while ago about joining the team. (We can’t call ourselves primablogerinas anymore, can we?) Here is UrbanCommuter’s first post. Be nice, folks.

So I considered making my first post an “about me” kind of deal. But I figured who wants to read a biography and that’s not why we are all here in the first place. So instead I would rather just jump right into the topic that we are all here for with only minimal background information.

I recently (November) relocated to Atlanta from Charlotte for a new position in architecture and in an attempt to live a car free, pedestrian and transit oriented lifestyle. I discovered this blog and felt compelled to join for a multitude of reasons. I hope to share with you critiques on transit, urban planning, a little bit of politics, and anything else I feel is important to the success of transit in general. So without further boring you with information about myself, my first post is derived from a recent short observation made on The Connector (SCAD’s online news).

The short article (more of a photograph with a small amount of commentary) had the tagline of “Lonely, Crowded MARTA.” The author made a very insightful post about how he feels we are becoming more and more disconnected from the real social world thanks to social media. This I completely agree with, and as the author stated it seems easier and easier to socially engage ourselves through this method rather than having to actually converse with someone. The problem I had was that a very generalized statement was made saying that MARTA itself was such a lonely place.

While I have been using MARTA for just a shade over six months, I have had a multitude of encounters that make my trips far from lonely, and offer an opportunity for social engagement that I am clearly not going to get in a car, and most likely not get when just walking by myself. Example: When I first moved here I was staying in a hotel in Gwinnett County while searching for an apartment. For work I would drive to the Doraville station and take the train in. On my third day of doing this a gentleman sat down next to me and made an observation regarding some books I was carrying. We continued to talk about what our professions were, which led to a discussion of where we were originally from (Illinois for those curious) and it turned out that this random guy in town for a convention, was good friends with my favorite high school English teacher. It took just three days of using public transit for me to make a 647 mile connection.

And this is far from the only encounter I have made with strangers on the train. Yes I have had my crazies (like the gentleman that began telling me about a big machine in the middle of the desert that the government uses to control the weather like a thermostat, who then proceeded to tell me he could get me a job in Asia for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, though he had no idea what my profession was), but I have also had great moments. For example, last week I was riding the train to Airport Station. An elderly lady with a walker was sitting across from me, her face drawn long and sad. A young guy, maybe late teens, no more than early twenties, was on his way to the airport for his TSA job, sits down next to her. There were multiple seats open on this car but he sat down next to her. He proceeded to ask her how her day was, what the book was she was carrying, and they began to have a long conversation. By the time the woman had reached her stop, her facial expression was completely different, and as she was leaving she thanked the kid that sat next to her. You could see that that interaction made her day, and you knew exactly what she was thanking him for.

Now yes there are days that I am sure none of us want to have conversations. Long days at work, trouble at home, just tired in general. That’s when we plug in our headphones, or aimlessly scroll through our iPhones and Blackberry’s hoping that we will appear busy and no one will bother us. And as the author of that short commentary said sometimes it is just easier to communicate in those ways, or in no way at all. But if one of those days is not upon you, try unplugging for your commute. Even if no one directly talks to you, the social engagement of others can be entertaining and interesting in its own right and maybe we can prove to that author that yes we are way too wired at times, but MARTA is not the place that lonely people go to.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Debbie permalink
    May 24, 2011 1:46 pm

    Welcome Urban Commuter! I enjoyed your commentary, and look forward to reading about your future experiences on transit, and your observations. I especially liked your telling about the TSA worker who reached out and made a positive difference by simply engaging with another rider. God bless him for making the effort. And kudos to you for sharing it with others.

  2. 10B permalink
    May 24, 2011 11:02 pm

    Guess how I met CCTgirl? 😀

  3. theaccidentalcommuter permalink*
    June 8, 2011 8:34 pm

    Whoa, I’m kind of an a-hole. Welcome, UrbanCommuter. I didn’t get a chance to read your entire post b/c I’m supposed to be working right now to finish grad school on the 18-year plan that CCT has projected for me. But I like what I see. I apologize for not welcoming you much earlier.

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