TriMet Vignette

Crowded train lurches forward, riders settling into rituals: novels fished from handbags, a flurry of fingers tethering ears to electronic devices, faces turned warily toward the window. We insulate from the other, from the awkward, from the unknown, because we are allowed — this is the 21st century, this is America, we must protect ourselves from ravers who randomly compliment our shoes and lunatics who breach the thin space between us with suspicious comments like “good afternoon.” We separate to spare ourselves from something unexpected, to remove the random from our lives, yet these filters fail to differentiate, so we celebrate that we are spared from the stranger, unaware that the on the tip of their tongue was the quotation that would have illuminated our day. We isolate so automatically that we have forgotten that surprise is more than another word for shock; it is also a synonym for delight.

© Bill Reagan (@williamreagan), used with permission. This vignette originally appeared as vignette #38 at

About Bill Reagan

Bill Reagan enjoys how public transit juxtaposes neighbors and strangers in a way no other microcosm of our community can. He likes eavesdropping, striking up random conversations, and watching how people act when they think no one is looking. He can be found online at and @WilliamReagan on Twitter.
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