Dear Girl on the 4:35 Orange Line Train,
I boarded the outbound train to Oak Grove, headed for Sullivan Square, after you did. The first car no less, I remember because I almost fell down the stairs at Downtown Crossing on my way to catch the train. I was excited because there was an empty seat and I could try sitting down during my evening commute. I sat next to you but I felt uncomfortable sitting, it seemed indulgent to just go a few stops and take up a seat, so I stood-up again.
The train lumbered along and when we got to Haymarket, two ladies boarded our train. I’m sure that you remember these two ladies. Two ladies in long coats and one wearing a beautiful blue scarf with colourful sequin flowers along the borders. Two ladies in long coats in a sea of shirt sleeves, sleeveless tops, linen pants, and pencil skirts. The two companions had to sit apart from each other, so they sat facing one another on the train. The older of the two ladies took the seat I was sitting in, the one right next to you, before I decided to get up and stand for the rest of the trip.
At some point, you decided that you found this veiled lady next to you offensive. I only know this, because her companion was gesturing about it, confused and hurt. When I looked at the lady sitting next to you and saw her face, she looked at me, confused as to why you found her offensive. Apparently you found her so offensive in fact, that when I looked down, you were holding your nose. Not just holding your finger beneath your nose or breathing through your mouth, you were HOLDING YOUR NOSE. Let me just say that again, because I still can’t quite wrap my head around this, you were HOLDING YOUR NOSE!!! What?
Unfortunately for you, you were probably sitting next to one of the safest passengers you could ever sit next to on the MBTA. Ever. You were sitting next to a woman who is probably fasting today because it’s Ramadan. It’s 93 degrees outside today and if you knew that it was Ramadan and that this woman is fasting, maybe you would understand that this woman has not had water since before sunrise. This woman has not had a single thing to eat since before sunrise. She is dressed modestly and, do I have to repeat myself? It is 93 degrees. I am an Episcopalian in linen and I am sweating through my clothes. God knows what I smell like right now! She is not intending to offend you or your delicate sensibilities. She is in the midst of Ramadan where denying her worldly sustenance brings her closer to God (Allah). Thirty days of fasting. She is tired, she is probably on her way to visit family or find some cool refuge or somewhere to sustain her spirit until she can break the fast at sundown (iftar). This is one of her few indulgences of the day: to sit in an air conditioned train and rest. And there you sit, holding your nose because this woman offends you. Did you notice that the entire car is mostly empty? It’s Tuesday afternoon in Boston on the Orange Line and it’s E-M-P-T-Y. You know when that happens? It doesn’t. So unless the Rapture happened before the evening commute, congratulations, we all got lucky today. There’s more than enough space for you to move, to go to another seat, especially since you’re so offended.
I didn’t want to say anything and draw attention to the two companions. I didn’t want to embarrass these ladies. I just wanted you to get your hand away from your nose and realize that everyone who gets on that train every night is struggling in some way. Fighting their way through something, day or night. For the limited time your paths cross, just for one stop or ten, I know it’s hard on the MBTA, but please, be patient.