Or, readers managing the despair of distraction.
It’s back to the grind, and for the morning, at least, that meant a carriage full of people too preemptively down about the work week to do anything other than blast upbeat decibels through their earbuds, hence providing yours truly with a whispered cacophony of dance thumps and disembodied voices, and visions of the near future involving deaf hordes of fifty-year-olds, wondering what they’d done to themselves.
But on the afternoon train, a man who’d escaped that imagined fate by a probable ten years was doing his best to read the business section, stretching his newsprint end to vertical end before him, as if holding a scroll and preparing to declaim. If his awkward posture was meant to give his seatmate a hint that he was trying to read, the message went unheeded; the co-ed next to him was treating us all to a cell-phone recapitulation of the calamities of young adulthood, checking in with her listener via the frequent refrain, “Lindsay, I was like,…” At some point, I looked over to find our newsreader leaning for support against the window, back of his hand against his head in an immediately recognizable posture of woe.
By that time, a bookworm had positioned herself a few seats down, chin on top of the stuffed backpack in her lap, arms wrapped around its bulk with an open, uncovered hardback copy of Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania in her hands. But a frazzled dad with two boisterous boys around the age of five soon jumped into the seats immediately across from our history-lover, and the unnoticed look she gave the trio was worthy of even the most child-hating cadre of old-school librarians. No fretful hand to brow for this trooper, who kept to her text in the face of that auditory onslaught while the skinny philosopher-type next to her alternated a thoughtful placement of hand over mouth with a more meditative pose of hand on chin.
Just before getting off at my stop, I noticed that the newspaper reader had renewed his attempt to take in a few words, and had switched to a magazine. Lindsay, though, was still listening to her friend’s tribulations being broadcast over the telephonic ether.