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Love on the Light Rail


Saturday, January 07, 2012


          What people see as public and private business never became so clear to me as during this week’s travels by public transportation around Hudson County and being forced to over hear other people’s cellular telephone conversations.

          I’d run into this discourse in the past, of course, but since I mostly drove I didn’t have much experience in the foolish chatter people use their cellular telephones for, nor had I fully realized just how much people divulged about themselves during these one-sided conversations.

          A few years ago, while visiting Cape May, I ran into a particular arrogant upperly mobile professional who had camped out in a corner of an antique store and deliberately talked about his stock investments so loudly nobody in the eight rooms could miss a word.

          The cellular phone has been a tool of such braggarts since its invention, but never so obnoxiously public.

          Unlike my usual habits of telling off such jerks, I bit my tongue since I was at that moment on vacation.

          During this week’s ride in the Kennedy Boulevard shuttle up from Bayonne, it was impossible to do anything other than bite my tongue since I would have been forced to shout “shut up” over the few dozen people between me and the public offenders.

          At some point near West 30th Street in Bayonne, a young Indian woman got on the bus, seating herself in the front seat near the front door. She was college age, maybe, and was continuing a conversation she had started on the bus stop.

          “He couldn’t say he loved me,” she said in a voice so sweet I needed to check my blood sugar level just listening to it. “I couldn’t say I loved him either.”

          She and he apparently had met on the platform for the Light Rail, had already purchased their tickets and validated them, but did not board that train or those that followed.

          “We talked and talked,” she said. “We talk for so long that we had to buy new tickets.”

          She went into some detail about how she wanted to know him better and so listened to what he had to say, and he apparently felt the same way, and so they just talked.

          “Then he tried to kiss me. But I couldn’t let him do it. I just couldn’t,” she said.

          As the bus rolled on, she seemed to ask the person on the other end of the line if she had done the right thing, and then told her about how forlorn she felt when finally when they boarded the train, and eventually came to the stop where she had to get off and he continued on with out her.

          Eventually, the young woman hung up. The silence the followed engulfed the interior of the bus so that even the rumble of the wheels and the heavy breathing of the other passengers could not fill the space.

          At some point, she got off, and some other young man got on – he was of Middle Eastern extraction and was telling someone that they had to move out of an apartment he was renting them.

          “I can’t give you an extension, I have other people coming in to take that apartment so you have to get out,” he said overly loud, running his real estate racket from near the rear of the bus.

          He was clearly exploiting fellow immigrants, arranging for the rental before they came into the county.

          “These people will be arriving shortly and will need to move in right away,” he said. “How would you have felt when I rented to you and you arrived from overseas to find someone still in the apartment?”

          He went on with his threats for several blocks, and then said, “If you’re not out of the apartment when you’re supposed to be, then you won’t be getting any of your security deposit back. I’ll take 100 percent of it.”

          It was an empty threat. Since most landlords found excuses why to rip off renters, and from what I could see of this guy, he was the type to keep the deposit on the slimiest excuse.

          Like the guy in the Cape May antique shop, this guy was also playing to us, speaking loudly so that we would all think that he was much more important that he was, rather than just a cheap exploiter running his racket off the back of a bus bound for Journal Square.

          The bus halted before his threats did, and we all had to get off in the middle of the block so that the shuttle could rush back to Bayonne to pick up more people. I stopped on the sidewalk to watch which way these people went, and if the girl and the man went in the same direction, which they did not, their private lives still lingering in the air like smoke – fading away, strange memories which the rest of us had to live with without resolution.

          Would the girl eventually hook up with the guy she saw on the train?

          Would the exploiter get rid of one client so he could rip off another immigrant family?

          Maybe I’ll find out on my next ride up from Bayonne to Journal Square.


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