Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A New Face

I've been a bad blogger of late, and for that I am deeply apologetic. I could blame pretty much anything; work, family obligations, etc.... but the truth is I just couldn't get with it. Lost my interest.

I think I know why this has happened. The obligation to blog just took over. It was all about the post, and not about the writing. Of course some would argue that it was never about the writing based on what I was putting up here, but that is an argument for a different time.

It all hit me today on the train home. This thing that I've done here for three years isn't about my obligation to post or even to entertain my readers. This thing is about what I'm thinking, what happens in my life and what makes life worth living. So I'm not going to feel guilty about not posting. Hell, I take back that apology!

Anyway today I had kind of a cool experience.

I've been riding the Chicago North....check that, Metra - they called it the Chicago Northwestern when my dad rode it - for years. One of the things that has not changed is that in this automated world we still have conductors on our trains. Not only do we have conductors, but the guys we have are lifers. Conducting is their career, and every day the same familiar face is there to say hello and take our tickets.

Today we had a new conductor on the train. To non-commuters this probably doesn't seem like a big deal. Guy comes into the car and announces "Tickets!" and then leaves. Perhaps we have a quick chat with him at the stop while he opens the door, but our relationship isn't really all that deep.

None-the-less these guys, and yes they're almost all men, become a daily part of our lives and we all develop a certain familiarity with each other. I remember back when my dad rode the train to between Chicago and Arlington Heights, that I was always so impressed with the conductors. They wore neat, clean uniforms, had good haircuts and went about their duties in the most professional of manners. It is no different today. In a world where male fashion generally starts with an announcement of some sort of team or brand loyalty, the Metra conductors are an important link to the past when men were men, and working an 8 hour shift was honorable duty.

And so these men have our respect and to some degree our friendship. Today, when we had a new conductor it was a moment for pause. Although he was a new guy, he obviously was from conductor central casting. Clean cut, sharply pressed white short sleeve shirt, blue pants and conductor's hat. He took our tickets quickly, unobtrusively and allowed us to continue with whatever we were doing with a minimum of disruption. When we got to our stop, he opened the door, reminded us to "watch our step" and wished us all a good night. We returned the sentiment.

As I sat there a thought hit me. I'm middle age. In 20 years, hopefully less, I'll be retiring and my years on Metra will come to an end. Hopefully, if all goes well, I may just have met the conductor that will caution me to watch my step, and instead of wishing me goodnight will say, "enjoy the rest of your life". He'll board the train, close the door and the cycle will continue.

I should probably get to know his name, don't you think?