I was reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss when a slightly overweight man plopped down onto the seat next to me. Yuck. I couldn’t believe I would have to suffer a whole hour and ten minutes on the train next to someone who was already intruding on my personal space. I tried to shift even closer to the window. When I was pressed up firmly against it, and could not go any further, I continued reading. I became immersed in the story and did not give the rest of the world another thought.
We passed the two major connection hubs. Now we were well on our way into the center of Jersey. No one came by to check tickets. The conductor finally came around after the fourth stop. He glanced at everyone’s tickets. He saw the overweight man’s. Then he did a double take when he saw mine. “Where are you going?” he asked.
I didn’t answer. I had already tuned the world out.
“Where are you going, Miss?” he tried again.
I absentmindedly put my ticket away (it is a monthly pass and it does not have to be collected, just shown to the conductor). I flipped the page. The whole train was waiting for me to reply.
The overweight man nudged me. I thought, “Geez, what does he want.” I looked at him and then looked at the conductor. Oh. What’s happening?
“What’s the problem?” I asked the conductor.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Millington.”
“You’re on the wrong train.”
“What? Are you serious?”
“Yes…this is the Spring Valley line. You’re gonna have to get off at the next stop and wait for the next train back to New York. Or take a cab…the next train back isn’t for another three hours.”
I felt all the energy drain out of me.
He shrugged. “You should’ve went one more track down while boarding. Track 1 is kind of hidden.”
I was deposited at the next stop. I wanted to shake my fist at the departing train and say, “Gosh darn, Spring Valley train! You ugly, rusted metal, familiar-looking thing that had me thinking you were the Gladstone train!!!” But I would’ve looked like a fool. Not that I didn’t already.
There I was, in a rather sorry state. Confused looking, and heavily burdened with my laptop bag on my back, another large cloth carry-all on my arm, and my big purse. I checked the train schedule and confirmed what the conductor had said, that the next train would be in three hours. I looked up my location and found that I was in the middle of nowhere, AKA an hour away from either the city and home. I sat on the steps and read some more while I thought about what to do next.
I figured, if I wait for the next train to come and bring me back to NYC, and then wait for a Gladstone train to bring me to my house, I would get home at about 2am. I was not ready to face that reality. So I did what every person with a loving, devoted family member did. I called my mom.
“Hey Mom….so…I took the wrong train when I left New York.”
“I’m at a random train stop. It’ll be another three hours before a train comes by….Can you pick me up? I love you.”
“I was just about to go to the gym. I’m in my workout clothes. I was going to use the steam room today. She sighed. Ok I’ll be there. Where are you?”
We figured out the details and she started making her way over to where I was.
Sure enough, an hour and a half later, my mom pulled up at the train station. “Hi honey, there was so much traffic coming up. How did you end up here?”
I recounted my story to her. She shook her head and said, “It’s all right. I make mistakes every day. And I understand. I had a bad day too.” She started chatting away about the events of her day.
I was pretty amazed by the whole exchange. I had expected a very angry mother, a mother full of lectures, and a mom that wanted to rip my head off for making her miss her Gym day. I couldn’t believe I was being forgiven so easily.
“Sorry for making you drive all the way over here, Mom.”
“Honey, we all have bad days. It’s okay….
…but how lucky are you to have a mom who loves you so much she would miss the one day of the week she could go to the steam room, hmm??” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
We both laughed happily. And then she invited me to go to the gym with her next week.
That incident was such a humbling moment. I really shouldn’t have gotten on the wrong train. I have taken those trains a hundred times before and I should have known better. I inconvenienced someone because of my own error. But, they were ready to just let it go like it was no big deal. They didn’t expect anything in return or make me feel bad. They just acknowledged that I am a human, I make mistakes, and we all have bad days.
I hope I can be that kind and humble next time someone else makes a mistake, and I am in a position to help them correct it.
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