I’ve been taking a real liking to public transportation lately. I realize it is one of those things that very few people enjoy - the smell, the crowdedness, and the unreliable schedules don’t really do much to help the cause. But looking past these things, I have come to believe that there is no better place to observe the human condition than packed car of commuters from all walks of life. If you ever see me staring at you on public transportation, I promise I am not trying to be creepy. I’m really just lost in thought!
Before public transportation, I used to turn to cosmology to gain a better understanding of my own existence. Space - the final frontier - is a great lens to view humanity through. After all, in the context of the age of the universe, this world of seven billion people is just a mere blip in time. What does one person’s life mean in such a vast, unfathomably large place?
But it does mean something. And for me, there is nowhere better than public transportation to see what that meaning is. We don’t live in a world of seven billion people; Earth is home to seven billion worlds. And as I began to contemplate about the successes and worries of my day, replaying the highlight and blooper reels during my commute, I realized how everyone was probably doing the same.
On one of my BART rides from Berkeley to Fremont, I remember turning to a man in his late twenties who was looking out the window, too lost in thought to notice me examining him intently. I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but in a flash I imagined his past, present, and future and became overwhelmed trying to comprehend the summation of his life experiences. He was a baby at some point. He had a mother. He probably loved and was loved by somebody. He has struggles just like me. After doing this for each person on BART, I realized that I didn’t have to look up towards space for an incomprehensible vastness. All I had to do was look around me.
We are all just passengers heading in the same direction, perhaps even the same destination, and yet we are living in entirely different worlds. But on that commute, our worlds do overlap. Some for the first time ever. Some for the last time ever. And for that moment, however brief, we endure the smell, the crowdedness, and the unreliable schedules together in solidarity.
I look forward to my next BART ride.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with BART’s marketing team.