A Day in Tolerance

a day in tolerance

It is a sunny Friday; half the working population of The Netherlands has the day off. I board the train with ease. Potential Bestfriend is in the cabin. We nod and smile at each other. We ride the same train every morning. We have come a long way, from eye contact, to nods, and now toothed smiles.

The seats are arranged in clusters of four, two sets of seats facing each other. I choose a cluster diagonally opposite from Potential Bestfriend. I sit by the window so I can look at life along the way, and then I create an island. I toss my coat on the seats opposite me and drop my bag on the seat beside me. I litter my island with my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books. Sometime on this journey, each will receive my attention.

More people enter the cabin.

Mevrouw?” The man looks at my bag and then me, a universal sign language.

I scan the cabin. There are other seats available, I tell him with my eyes. He waits. I make a big production of putting my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books in my bag. I flash him an apologetic smile that means, the two seats opposite me are empty, can’t you sit there?  He meets my smile with his—if you want your personal space, go buy your own train.

I keep my cool. These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The ride from Den Haag to Leiden is twelve minutes. Regular Joe fusses and fumbles, and twists and bends to make himself and his enormous rucksack comfortable. His shoulder grazes mine. His elbow jabs me and His hips brush against mine.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

He moves his enormous rucksack several times in an attempt to balance it. Heaven alone knows what’s in it. The rough edge bumps my leg and tugs at my pantyhose. I shift my leg. I open my mouth and then close it.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

“Station Leiden,” the announcement comes through the loudspeakers.

The cabin fills up. Young Generation approaches my cluster. He looks at me and I nod. He folds my coat before he takes the window seat directly opposite me. He isolates himself from the world with his Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

Regular Joe digs around in his enormous rucksack. Like a magician on stage, voilà, he produces a banana. He eats it while my empty stomach convulses. The Conjuror aka Regular Joe dips his hands in his rucksack again. Out comes a boiled egg. He cracks the eggshell against the armrest and peels it. He leans over me, brushing against me, to reach the small dustbin under the window. I get ready to push him to outer space, but stop.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The combination of boiled egg and banana is too much for me. A fart escapes before I can hold it in and release it slowly so it will not smell. Regular Joe sniffs like an Alsatian guard dog and wrinkles his nose. I look at Young Generation and speak his language. I roll my eyes the way my son rolled his eyes at the Converse shop after he picked a red pair of All Stars and I suggested a neutral black. Young generation winks at me, and smiles knowingly at Regular Joe. Oh yes, this fart will not be attributed to me.

A belch, a wipe of his mouth with the back of his hands, and then the Conjuror dips his hands in his enormous rucksack yet again. Voilà, strawberry yogurt! He twists the cap open and sucks. It is an angry sound, payback sound. He kicks my left foot. His apology is unconvincing. The last time I slapped someone, my hand hurt for days. I am ready to take another chance.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Dames en heren, over enkele minuten: station Amsterdam-Schiphol.”

I sigh in relief. With a rucksack as big as Texas, Regular Joe must be heading for Outer Mongolia. But, he does not get off the train; rather he takes advantage of the empty seat in front of him and stretches his leg. Hands clasped on stomach, he dozes and snores softly.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

We approach Amsterdam Zuid, a busy commercial hub. Most travellers exit here. Does Regular Joe have a job? Maybe at a smoothie factory—think banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt. Before I finish debating whether to wake him up, he opens his eyes, looks at the display monitor, and turns to his left side, brushing my hips, again.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Young Generation waves goodbye.

The cabin is almost empty. In seven minutes, we will arrive at Duivendrecht. Flinging my bag on my shoulder, I consider kicking the rucksack, since Regular Joe is drooling in his sleep. I do not. Instead, I attempt to cross the Himalayas mountain range.

By an act of divine intervention, I find myself on the aisle. Potential Bestfriend smiles as we make our way to the doors. At Duivendrecht, she takes the escalator to the metro stop, while I take the steps to platform eight.

I reflect on the forty-two minute train ride. The selfishness of Regular Joe—how dare he sit next to me and what about the human heads buried in his enormous rucksack? The banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt combo he designed to provoke a fart and embarrass me. His dozing drool, his irritating snore, and his constant attempt to tap current, the nincompoop, he stretched my tolerance level, but I prevailed.

As I congratulate myself, I see a hungry and tired young man who boarded a train seeking food, rest, and relief. I realize with horror, I am the person that the preacher talked about. Quick, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek!

So, what’s your tolerance meter reading these days? Share, I promise not to judge…

photo

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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