This week I was running late into work because of an early doctor’s appointment, which typically doesn’t yield and major problems with my commute to work. However, if any of the reader’s here have used SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Aurthority), they are aware that this public transportation is a tad finicky. I was notified earlier in the year that they would be cancelling all mid-day trains, and switching them with buses. This sounded dreadful, however it was my only option to get to work besides driving into the city of Brotherly Love.
This adventure, ironically started in the brisk fall air of around 10 am on an overcast day, which was slightly unpleasant as a result of the random drizzling, but I was just thrilled the bus was on time. Taking the same train every day you seem to see familiar faces or even engineers, but today, I just saw a few students and a foursome of two older couples looking excited for a day in the city. The bus wasn’t as bad as it can be since it was only for this special circumstance and I quickly got on the train.
As I sauntered to the back of the train in an attempt to find a seat, I saw my foursome friends that I had taken the bus with. I listened to my music and waited for the engineer to check my ticket. As he approached the foursome, I could see they were having a discussion about fares. I lowered my music and listened to their conversation, I know I was eavesdropping but something told me I had to pay attention to this.
I kindly heard the engineer explain that the senior citizen and veteran discount only applied to people who had a PA license, and that he would not be charging for his trip to center city, but he would have to purchase a ticket to return home. As he walked away I opened my bag and found one of my one trip tickets and turned to the foursome and kindly said “I heard you would have to pay for your trip home, I can tell you guys are visiting and I know how overwhelming the center-city ticket booths can get, please take this for your ride home and thank you for your service.”
The group was insistent that I didn’t have to do that, and I firmly held my ground that I wanted to help and I wanted them to enjoy their visit. I must have seemed convincing because they all thanked me for my kindness and accepted the fare. I went back to minding my own business until the older gentleman turned and said “Excuse me, this says “ten-trip ticket”, I didn’t want you to realize you gave some stranger a $60 ticket, is this right?” In that one moment I stopped and realized I knew what I was going to write about this month, this exchange right here. This man, was adamant on not accepting the fare and then so grateful and thoughtful he didn’t want me to make a mistake in giving him a multitrip ticket. I kindly responded that is just how the tickets are labelled when bought in bulk and said good-bye and have a nice day as I left the train.
I think we get comfortable when we are in our normal spaces, with normal faces. I enjoy the normalcy of my hello in the morning to my typical engineer on the train, the comfort in talking to my mom after a long day. And these normalcies aren’t necessarily a problem at all, but I think we need to recognize that there are more circles we can be a part of on a daily basis. Although your community is safe, it is never too late to add to new friends, and new communities. That foursome was part of my new commute community, and I met a lovely group of people and probably made their day doing something as simple as giving that Vet my extra ticket so they didn’t have to scramble on their way home. Communities are interesting concepts, and although it is great to flourish in your traditional community, it is important to continue to grow and join other communities. I am not sure what this group of people was doing on their trip to the city, but I can tell you that it turned out to be a beautiful day and I hope that ten-trip ticket was just a cherry on top for their visit to the city.
So I challenge you to expand your community. Reach out to that kid that doesn’t have a lot of friends at school, or invite the new coworker out for food and drinks. Expanding communities is one of the most important things you can do, and even if it is as simple as helping a stranger from Colorado on a train, it’ll make your community bigger, brighter and stronger, even if it’s just your commute community.