The thing about people in California, especially the San Francisco area, is that they seem to walk around in these little impenetrable bubbles. I am certainly not immune to this phenomenon, especially when I had a daily commute of 25 minutes on the jam-packed N Judah line (nope, nobody here but me and my iPhone) followed by 45 minutes on Caltrain (nope, nobody here but me and coffee). It’s an urban survival skill, the ability to ignore hundreds of people in your personal space.
For over a year I’d been making that commute in that world, the world where literally every single day I sat alone on the train, with my bubble engaged and a defensive glare at the ready in case anyone dared to sit next to me. I had a ritual, too; in most train cars, there are only a handful of seats with cupholders. Being the coffee addict that I am, I always sought out one of those seats to stake my claim.
This is exactly what I was doing, bubble up, coffee in hand, on the day I bumped into a tall, handsome blonde man walking the wrong way down the aisle of the train car. My eyes went to his, then to the venti Starbucks latte in his hand, then to the empty cupholder seat that was next to us. Oh hell no, I thought to myself, and gave him a chilly smile before sliding into the seat and claiming the cupholder.
He hesitated, looked at the cupholder, then at me, then moved on with a defeated look on his face. I beamed, triumphant. But something nagged at me. I had seen the covetous glance at my cupholder. I was suddenly 100% sure that he was going to come back. And then I would have to spend the entire commute sitting next to someone. How utterly annoying.
Of course, he did come back, and he politely asked if he could share the cupholder. “Sure,” I grunted, giving him the briefest possible moment of eye contact. Blue eyes. How annoying. He sat down. Just please don’t try to talk to me, I thought. Let me have my coffee and stare at my phone and I’ll just pretend you’re not there.
The train started moving. I sat there seething at my lack of personal space while he pulled out a MacBook. Mentally, I rolled my eyes. He’s an iPhone developer, I thought. I just know he is. He opened the computer and I glanced over to see Xcode documentation. Of course. Now I can’t even get work done because he’ll see I’m also an iPhone developer and want to talk to me. How annoying.
I thumbed irritably through email on my phone until I saw something from work I needed to address. Resigned, I pulled out my computer and tethered to my phone. I tapped away for a few minutes before it happened. “What are you using to get online?” he asked.
Internally, I winced. The bubble had been penetrated. I begrudgingly allowed myself to be pulled into a conversation about various personal WiFi options. He made a joke; I laughed. He turned out to be charming. I had forgotten what it was like for a stranger on the train to be warm. By the time we got to my stop, we had managed to exchange Twitter names (oh, the modern age). And for the rest of the day I couldn’t get that annoying, tall, blonde man out of my head.
He really does have very nice blue eyes, and so does our son.
All because of a cupholder.