Mass Transit – On the Red Line

Dallas has never been seen as a city that is amenable to mass transit. Unlike an east coast megalopolis it was created in the age of the automobile – vast suburban tracts vomited out across the endless cotton fields along the pulsing arteries of constantly rebuilt freeways. But, for fifteen years now, we have had the DART rail. Always controversial, overly expensive, oft-reviled – the colored lines – Red, Blue, Green, Orange – crawled out inexorably across the map like vines on a brick wall.

Two tattooed guys – one skinny, one not – the skinny guy stands holding his skateboard, the other one sits hunched over a single speed bicycle – like a low slung bike for a kid a third his size. I am used to bicycles used as transport – this would be useless for that. It’s a bike used as a lifestyle statement. He rocks and stares at the chain like he’s afraid it will leap off the cogs if he lets it. Tired middle aged men slumped in seats, a guy playing a game on a smartphone, and a young couple standing in the door holding hands.

These are the people I live a lot of my life with. They are the same people you live a lot of your life with. Perfect strangers. Strangers on a train. I want to know these people and I want their stories.

The two guys, the skateboard and the inefficient but cool bicycle – they may be gutterpunks but they look like they are having fun. The guy on the bike moves back and forth at each stop to let folks get to the door or their seats. When their stop comes (one before mine) he shouts, “Off to another adventure” and shoots out the open door.

Looking at the young couple makes me ache. They may be poor and doomed… but together, today, right now, they are a thing of beauty. Beauty is so rare and so fleeting.

The others… all forgettable. But I know that the forgotten folks all have stories that will raise the hairs on the back of your necks. But we all sit and sway, look around, adjust our headphones, and get off at our stops.