Middle Seat

It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

We experience a power outage sometime last night which causes my alarm clock to reset to factory default – it doesn’t awaken me. My entire morning is turned on its ear, so to speak. There’s only time for a quick shower and shave. Breakfast is an abbreviated version of what it should be. There isn’t even time for toast or coffee. Instead, it’s two slices of cold white bread choked down on my way to the park and ride. But it’s all for naught. I’ve missed my 7:04. I now have all the ingredients for a stress headache. So far that’s the only thing running on schedule.

My 7:14, is on time. I’m waiting on the platform as the doors hiss and then open with a dull thud. There’s only one vacant seat and I head for it. I’m thrown off balance as the train lurches from the station, and I’m too busy concentrating on handholds to notice Alan, the CEO of Buyer’s Blues, Inc., is occupying the seat next to the vacant one. My migraine intensifies ten fold, or so it seems.

If only I’d noticed, I could have grabbed the handrail near the door. This morning, standing for the twenty-minute commute would have been okay. But I’ve already committed myself and I see Alan’s smiling face. Alan is a nice person. He would loan me his last dollar if I asked for it, but he talks too much. He doesn’t understand that sometimes people need a quiet period before facing the world. My world is heading up the complaint at a large retail store.

The coach is lurching from side-to-side, and I haven’t assumed a sitting position before Alan begin complaining about his latest water bill. The water board charges are excessive, in my opinion, but that’s something he needs to take up with the city rather than me. I shut him out for an instant while recalling my iPod is still in my briefcase. He hasn’t finished his initial complaint in detail before I pop the clasps on my briefcase and extract my iPod along with a blessed headset. He stops in mid sentence.

Rude or otherwise, I don my earphones. Pete Fountain is first up and I increase the gain enough to drown out Alan’s voice. I can feel his eyes as I lean back in my seat. If he says anything more, I don’t hear him.

By the time I’ve reached my stop Alan is bending someone else’s ear and my headache is gone.

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