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By Kellnerin (Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 06:25:10 PM EST) (all tags)
Paper and plastic; notes from the train.


THE OTHER DAY, walking along the platform to the evening train, I heard this faint shhhh sound behind me, like someone was pouring out a paper cup of soda with ice, but not quite as loud. I glanced over my shoulder and saw someone emptying out a bag of some kind of snack -- something in the Cheez-It family I think -- onto the platform. It formed a small pile of bright orange crumbs.

I kept walking, and could hear the crumpling of a plastic bag from behind. He was gaining on me. In the middle of the platform, before you reach the train doors, there's a garbage receptacle. Into this, the guy tossed the Cheez-It bag.

I veered to the right of the receptacle and got onto my train; he went left.


THERE'S THIS GUY who takes the same train as me on the way home, sits in the same car I usually do. His face is permanently flushed bright pink and I've seen his hair range from overgrown to close-cropped and back again. He's almost always one of the first to get on the train, and he likes to engage other passengers in debates about the fortunes of the local sports teams, the Sox in particular, and tell them why they are wrong. I think he may actually be a Yankees fan.

The most distinctive thing about about him, however, is his collection of newspapers. Every day, he has dozens or maybe even hundreds of papers, all packed tightly into several white plastic grocery bags, forming these large, solid blocks of newsprint. Sometimes I'll get on the train and he won't be there yet, but the bags of newspapers will be, taking up the entire two-seater bench where he usually sits and maybe spilling over onto the floor. This is all he ever has with him.

Before the train gets too full he puts them up on the overhead luggage rack to make room for sitting. Later, as the train pulls away from the stop before his, he hauls then down again and carries them to the end of the car in preparation for getting off the train. After he gets off, from my window I can see him ambling along the platform with an uneven gait, three or four of his bulky newspaper cubes hanging at the end of his arms on either side.

Today the conductor on my part of the train was someone I'm not familiar with. She seemed like a friendly sort, with a voice that carries well, a good trait in a conductor I guess. I heard her ask him why he collects all the papers.

"I bring them to a nursing home," he told her. "You probably know who I am, I'm around South Station all the time."

"No, I don't."

He seemed genuinely shocked. "Everybody knows who I am!"

"Well, I guess I'm not everybody!" It was the tone of an indulgent adult speaking to a child she thinks is being patently ridiculous, but then she said she's never in South Station and quickly segued into, "So you take them to a nursing home, that's a nice thing to do."

They talked for a little while longer, but the train was about to pull into his stop. She had to get the doors, and he had newspapers to carry.

< OUR POWERS COMBINED | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
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Strange persons by Fionn (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed May 03, 2006 at 02:14:15 AM EST

There's all sorts of strange people on the train. Some stranger then other.

One of the weirder ones I've ever seen was someone I called garbage man. I named him such because, from a distance, he always looked like he was dressed completely in garbage bags (the dark-grey kind).

When I once saw him up close, I saw he wasn't wearing a collection of garbage bags, but that he was actually wearing something that must've been a nice suit at some point. Except, that it had gotten so old worn out that all the seams had gotten loose so that the underlying clothes were visible, and the fabric itself had gotten all shiny from wear, making it look like it was made from seperate garbage bags...

Aside from that, he looked relatively clean. It was just as if he never took the suit off, not even to shower or whatever.

It made me wonder what he did for a living, and even if he had a valid ticket for the train.

it makes you wonder by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed May 03, 2006 at 06:48:49 AM EST
Even if you get an answer to one question (What's he wearing? Oh, a really old suit. Why does he collect all those papers? Oh, he brings them to a nursing home) it doesn't actually solve the greater mystery. Why's he riding the train at all? I know my newspaper guy has a ticket or a pass (as you know, they are good about checking such things) but where's he get the money to pay for it? Does he go in to town just to collect the papers all day and bring them back? What does the nursing home do with all the papers? Do they only want certain ones, or does it matter?

At first, when I heard that conversation, I went, "aha!" but after thinking about it more, I may be more confused now than ever.

--
"later" meant either "when you walk around the corner" or "oatmeal."

[ Parent ]
Aye by Fionn (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu May 04, 2006 at 12:32:07 AM EST

They tend to do that. The stranger the person on the train, the more mystery seems to surround them. Sometimes it's easy enough solved, but there's also times when I just go like "huh?!".

Maybe the nursing home collects the paper and sells them for cash to be recycled?

Schools do that here in the Netherlands, they collect all sorts of paper and sell them for recycling. Or at least, they used to. Dunno if they still do, but they probably are.

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