So this little prompt is not only a step into my mind, as this is how I pretty much think all the time; but rather, an interesting tool I sometimes use when my muse is feeling sluggish, lazy or just plain stuck. Lately it’s been feeling lazy, so I decided to try something new. Instead of thinking like this in an internal montage, I decided to type out exactly everything I was thinking. No script, no outline. Just writing down my observations of the public Metra commute from Chicago to Aurora BNSF line going to my stop post Hinsdale.
After reading, if you choose to read, I invite you to do the same next time your on a train, bus or any other form of public transportation. It was actually a lot of fun too and got 1k out of the “poem”.
So without further ado, I give you…Ode to Metra:
Ladies and gentleman, thank you so much for sharing this train ride for me. To us, it is just another journey with just another day. We no longer look up at the city of Chicago rolling past us as we might have our first venture to the city. The world’s fifth tallest building that looms over the horizon no longer makes us gaze in awe as it does the countless of tourists that visit the great city every day. The squeaky wheels of the train no longer concern us with the amount of noise they make as we no longer debate with ourselves if they are making more noise than they should. No longer worried that there is a problem with the train.
The city is almost out of sight now. Wave goodbye as the tracks take use further and further away from our favorite city. The Willis Tower stands proud as it anchors the rest of the skyscrapers below it like a King leading an army in war. A war of the economical kind, Chicago still prosperous tall.
As I sit here with my back comfortably against the wall, as my promptness to catch the train early paid off by allowing me to sit at an end chair. This advantage gives me two seats instead of one as we are all too shy to sit down next a stranger if we do have to. And luckily, today the train is not too crowded as it sometimes is. The city, although tall and mighty, it’s commuters must be on a different schedule today. Or perhaps they were lucky enough for a three day weekend. Or perhaps they chose to drive home. Why anyone would be that mad, I haven’t the faintest idea.
“Tickets please” The conductor calls.
Most of us don’t even look up at him. Too intoned with our music, iPad’s, laptops and books we chose to entertain us on the 40ish minute ride home. But the conductor is your friend, as I found out his name is Jose. A common name for a common job. And yet all our jobs appear ordinary by how casual we sit and lay comfortably on the train.
And now that the stage has been set, let us introduce the actors.
Ahead of me is a young man. He puzzles me though because although his face is young, perhaps not that much older than my own, his eyes are old and his dress is aged. He is wearing a fancier suit that makes him look ten years older. His shoes are well worn on the bottom but shiny on the top which is rare for someone so young. He is flaunting his wealth with an iPad and a casual laid back stance that shows he is in charge. My guess is a manager of sorts, he is either very smart or very lucky or both to have such a title at a young age.
Next to him going down the road is a woman who is older. Not old-old but old enough. 45 or 50 is my guess but she has no shame in her wrinkles. She does not try to disguise hers age with glomps of make up or try to dress younger than she is. She is smart and wears an outfit that compliments her skin tone and figure. She has a satchel bag of a bright, yellow color. She appears friendly enough and outerly at least she appears care-free. She gives us young people hope that you can age a healthy, happy life. I like her. But as she is deep into the book, I can tell by the spine of the book that she has read more pages then are left. She is almost done with her book and is eager to find out what is more. Yet her hand is not gripping the book as she tries to find out what happens, but is casually resting it. On the back of the book is a picture of the author. I have seen that style of backing’s before and my guess is she is reading a romance book. I wonder if she likes romance because they make her wish her own turned out like the novels, or if they remind her of past flings and lovers.
Sadly that is about all I can see on the same row as my own as far as the cast goes. Mr. iPad keeps looking over at me, probably wondering how I can type so fast or maybe my music is too loud. I turn down my music just in case as this is in fact the quiet car. But sorry Mr. IPad man, I cannot help the speed of my typing. This exercise I have begun to practice describing setting and characters has left my muse too inspired. But I thank you for noticing my speed, I pay your distant looks a compliment. He still puzzles me and it is now irritating as I wish to know his story. If this was a work of fiction, he’d make the perfect immortal. A vampire perhaps or just an immortal. Ah sadly, we are at his stop apparently for he got up and is prepared for the next stop. Hinsdale. As it is a wealthy town, his story is becoming a little clearer. But just like you should not judge a book by its cover, nor should you a person.
But observing their covers is a great way to get into their character, and only by talking to them can you truly learn more. It is ashamed that is not part of our custom to talk to strangers about trains.
But the best part of strangers on a train for writers is they make the perfect canvas for characters.
So next time you are on a public transit either the bus or train or plane, write down what you see and turn them into characters. Your muse will thank you for it.