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.

21 responses to “Mass Transit – On the Red Line

  1. I’m a devotee of public transport and use the London Underground service a lot. Your post really resonated for me. On one occasion I found myself sitting opposite a young girl – age about 15 – with her mum. They had been shopping and the girl had bought a pair of thigh-length boots. She couldn’t resist putting them on which caused a lot of exposure of leg. The mother said “everyone is looking at you” to which the girl replied “I don’t care, I’ll never meet them again”. How very perceptive of her. That happened more than 10 years ago but it says a lot about the people who you meet, sometimes intimately, but only once in your life in the world of mass transit. Thanks for the post Bill.

    • “I don’t care, I’ll never meet them again” – a very rare opinion for that age – most kids are so concerned what everyone thinks about them.

      Interesting story, thanks.

  2. I love this post. I often look at humanity in it’s collected random form, like in a stadium or on a bus or train, etc, and try to envision us as brothers and sisters. God’s family. I like to strip people down to the essence of who they really are, the soul minus all the external trappings — what usually happens is that I end up liking or at least relating to everyone.
    I might be the only person who does this, but it’s where my thoughts usually go.

    • I guarantee you aren’t the only one. “I end up liking… everyone.” Of course the opposite is true when you are in a bad mood. Like the Doors said, “People are strange, when you are a stranger, Faces look ugly when you’re alone.”

    • Thanks. I didn’t have my camera with me… and I’m not sure I could have pulled out the big SLR and taken a picture without a reaction. I had to use my crappy blackberry phone camera – converting it to black and white and then using color for emphasis seemed the thing to do.

  3. Is there such a thing as “story hunger”? I feel the same way. I want to know people’s stories. Perhaps it’s “story starved.” Whichever, you get the point. It’s like a burning passion. Kindred spirits for sure.

  4. Dallas’ red line looks like L.A.’s red line. Not bad. But you need a whole web of lines (like in New York) to get anywhere. Still, I love the trains. Thanks for the info on the Dallas scene.

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