Have you ever noticed how competitive people get when riding the Metro? Recently, I have noticed this tendency in myself.
During a morning commute I was 3 feet from the door, the first in line to exit at the next stop. As the train pulled into the station, a young man squeezed in front of me, right up against the glass, so he could leave first. His backpack was literally poking into my stomach. This was an unholy act, and I decided he must be punished. So after we got off the train, I sped walked ahead, careened back in front of him just as we entered a narrow, one-way path forward, and then I slowed to a painstakingly…deliberate…pace. I could feel his frustration on the back of my neck, and my smug sense of triumph swelling in my chest.
What did I really win though? I think I’ve actually been losing by playing this zer0-sum game. Acting as if it’s either them or me, causes more stress and distances me from others by turning them into an obstacle course.
Today, I tried something different.
I refused to rush up and down the escalators. I let people pass me, including a rude woman who was playing the jostling game. I did not crowd around the door in order to get off first. I deliberately took the last car of the train, even though I knew the first car is closer to the exit at my home station. Meaning, when I got to Columbia Heights, I wound up at the very back of a very long line to get out of the turn stall. (Spoiler alert: I waited less than 3 minutes.)
I have no illusions that I’m converted or have obtained an inner peace. But I am convinced that how I interact with others on public transportation is a sign of (and impacts!) my sense of well being. And if I stop acting as if the game matters, then who cares about that a-hole with the backpack.
Small, deliberate, daily actions that reflect and shape my inner well being. Relating to people as their best self, as my best self. That’s my way of being a spiritual person in the city. Or just a decent human being on the Metro.