Characters from the Commute

purple

Commuting is not the way to see people.  You never see them at their best.  In the morning they are barely awake, angrily clutching their coffee holders.  The women’s makeup might still be in their purse instead of their face.  The men have shaved but still feel the psychological stubble.  Either way, they all resent having to go to work.

Night is no better.  Though there is freedom from work, it has already beaten them down.  They are ready for bed before the sun has even gone down.  They desperately cling to the idea that if they get home,  then maybe they can get their release.  It won’t be long before the realization that they have to get up for work again the next day will come crashing down on them.

It isn’t like seeing someone on a train or plane.  Those people are going on vacation and are full of life and energy.  They were on holiday long before they even boarded the plane.  They aren’t commuters.  Their eyes are full of life.

I often look around the bus for characters.  Unlike my friend who names them for the stops they get on, I go for more generic nicknames until I can find the courage, or an excuse to talk to them.  It usually helps if they are reading.  Lately, I have seen some interesting hair colours on the bus.  I’m not talking blonde or red, but dark purple and neon green.  I am just wondering what the person is saying.  Do they see this as a sign of who they really are or who they want to become?  When I look at them, I get a sense of it, but I have no idea if I am right or not.

If I were to write one of them as a character in a book or story, would the hair colour be an important or useful detail?  Would it convey meaning and symbolism, or would its importance be subverted by other characteristics?  More importantly, would they be believable or viewed as overwritten?  Maybe the choice of hair colour is much less important than the motivations behind it.  Maybe we are only looking at the effects when we should be presenting the cause.  Perhaps they, even as characters in a story, are trying too hard. When searching for characters, sometimes the most authentic ones just don’t come across as real on paper (or screen).  Perhaps it is only natural that those superficial choices that make them so visually distinct are left to the writer to whittle down into something more presentable.  If that woman, clutching her mobile phone in one hand and her coffee in the other, had dyed her hair the same shade of purple as the bridesmaid’s dress she wore at her best friend’s wedding, maybe then it would be a story.

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About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
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4 Responses to Characters from the Commute

  1. thought-provoking read, thanks! (p.s. dyed, not died, her hair)

  2. Celia says:

    Spot-on observations about commuters, I say! I’m one of them most days, just because I’m not a morning person. My work is not too bad, but I do feel that sense of ‘release’ going home! Loved the comment about the girls’ makeup in her purse haha.

    I feel like I often judge people just by their facial expression or the way they dress – but most times when I do communicate with that person and I see their eyes smiling as they talk, I realise you can never really tell what a person is like just by looking at them. If only people communicated more with each other!

    • Anthony says:

      I have met quite a few people on my bus. This is mostly because I ask them for book recommendations after I see them reading.
      You’re right, though. You can never really tell what a person is like until you talk to them.
      Thanks so much for your comments.

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