I love to ride the train, and it was with great pleasure that, on a recent nippy Friday December morning, I boarded the Amtrak train at the station in High Point for the 75-minute ride to Charlotte. Our beautifully-restored depot is a delight to the eye and offers waiting room comfort to passengers, and the coaches are both clean and comfortable. No, I am not being paid by Amtrak; I have loved train travel since I was a child and find it both relaxing and pleasurable,both of which driving to Charlotte has ceased to be. I read, relaxed, and enjoyed the scenery, with no worries about traffic or parking or any of the annoyances which all too often mark any automobile trip these days. After arriving in Charlotte, I crossed Tryon Street where I very quickly was able to board a bus into the uptown, for the amazing price of 85 cents when I produced my Medicare card.
Since I was meeting friends for lunch and I was early, I headed for the Belk building and Founders Hall, where I knew I would find both a bookstore and a Caribou Coffee shop in order to while away the time pleasurably. Finding nothing new of interest in the bookstore, I headed to the coffee shop for a Soy Chai Latte and found myself a quite corner table behind the fireplace where I proceeded to make the following entry in my pocket journal:
In Charlotte, people-watching in the Belk Building at Caribou Coffee...in front of me is a man in a brown chair doing Sudoku... another opposite reading on a Kindle, sunglasses atop his head, coffee on the table before him. In the corner, a young man (a student, perhaps) is working on his laptop, as all the while his head is bobbing to the music coming through his headphones. On the other side of the fireplace, two twenty-something women are conversing, sharing frequent laughter. Christmas muzak sounds in the background as people ascend and descend distant escalators while others stream steadily by down the corridor in front of me. Lots of moms with little ones in strollers pass by, as well as an occasional dad bearing a toddler in his arms. Is this place always so busy, I wonder or is the traffic a sign of the season? And are the people lingering here in the coffee shop out of work or night shift workers or among the idle rich?
A lovely elderly black woman walks by, leaning on a cane, her face wreathed in white curls...what is her story, I wonder- for each of these people has a story to tell, each as unique as a fingerprint, as distinctive as an ear whorl. How I want to ask, to enter- just for a moment or two- into the lives of these people I see, to create an intersection between their lives and mine, in recognition of our shared humanity, our all-too-often-unacknowledged connectedness.
An Asian woman in a beautiful red coat passes, the reading man leaves, and I am aware that it is almost time to meet my friends for lunch... I am eager to reconnect with them, even as I rue opportunities lost, contacts unmade...as life goes on in our busy, impersonal world, decorated in Christmas finery...and I try hard to find the Babe in the manger in the faces around me.