For those of you that that live and work in New York, you probably take the subway to get around. Youprobably know the stress of train delays when you have an important meeting to get to, or when you’re tired after a long day and you just want tosit in peace until your stop comes…and a stranger starts up a conversation - a random one with a subject you couldn’t care less about.
“Ugh what do you want?” I thought when a woman started talking to me on the train to Penn Station. I really was not in the mood to talk; I simply wanted to listen to music on my phone and stare out the window until I had to rush out of the station and get to a meeting. But of course, some people don’t get the message that you are listening to music, and they take the opportunity to inundate you with things that you don’t care about. I mean come on, when I’m listening to Maroon 5, I will not want to talk to you while trying to listen to Adam Levine’s voice.
It’s ironic because as I was sitting on the train nodding my head at this person that I didn’t know, trying to look like I was engaged in whatever she was saying, I thought about the play I had read from the night before – Express Train. Michael Selditch portrays that well-known moment of when some stranger strikes up a conversation with you on a train. Hal innocently starts talking to Bob, who clearly wants nothing to do with holding a conversation at 2:00 am on a subway. Then slowly, both men begin to unravel their personal lives and feelings as the train constantly stops from obnoxious railway problems.
You will never know how much you can actually reveal about yourself to a complete stranger. I can say so myself because after I got past being annoyed with this woman who was talking to me, I made an effort to be nice, which lead me to genuinely listen to what she was saying. I could have easily pretended to take a phone call to avoid talking to her…unless the phone rang during my “phone call.” That would have been a bummer. But once I saw that she wasn’t going to shut up, I just went along with the conversation, which although it was weird, I knew that I couldn’t just rudely dismiss her for innocently making conversation. It was weird because of the topic she brought up: marriage and how “women need to find the right men;” clearly she needed to get something personal off her chest by giving some kid advice.
In Express Train, Hal isn’t looking to give advice; he just seems like he needs to get something off his chest, which happens to involve an ex-fiancée. This is what Selditch wanted to show – how people simply need to get something off their chests. Sometimes talking to someone outside of your own personal realm can actually fulfill you; you’ll feel better about telling a stranger something that you possibly can’t tell anyone else in your life; it feels better since you probably will never see that person again. That explains why the woman decided to talk to me about how meeting the wrong man is life-ruining. I now understand why she found me to give unexpected advice to. I was right across from her, so why not start a conversation about something that was obviously bothering her by masking that problem with advice?