The Quiet Car


  Everyone remembers their first taste of freedom. For some, it’s getting their license. For others, it’s moving away for college. For me, it was visiting my older sister at George Washington University for a weekend.

  This trip required me to take a 3-hour train ride by myself. My electronic ticket open on my phone and my shaking hands were both dead giveaways to any regular commuter that this was my first time travelling alone.

  When one enters a train, they must quickly decide where to sit. I remembered my parents telling me to take a car with lots of people.

  Luckily for me, the car I had walked onto filled this criteria. Ignoring any signs, literal or just blatantly obvious considering the atmosphere, I searched for a seat.

  “May I sit here?” I asked a young woman with headphones in. After she nodded in confirmation, I took a seat.

  I originally planned to do some homework during the venture with my headphones blasting whatever pre-curated playlist was waiting for me on Spotify. My plans were quickly derailed, however, when I discovered I’d forgotten headphones. And a pencil.

  With a sigh, I pulled up my contact list to call my

  “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the quiet car. Enjoy your ride,” announced the conductor.

  The quiet car? I needed to get on a car with some sort of mental stimulation. If I had no headphones, no writing utensil, no internet, and now no option to talk to someone on the phone, what was I supposed to do for the next three hours?

  Once I finally plucked up enough courage to get up and move to a different part of the train, we started to drive away from the station. I was stuck. Sinking back into my seat, I looked around at my surroundings.

  Sitting across from me was a couple that couldn’t keep their hands off each other. It wasn’t unusual to see a people inappropriately kissing in the hallway of my high school, and it’s usually gross enough to make me gag. But this seemed sweet. I liked to imagine they had just reunited after a period of long distance and were now heading off on a romantic trip in the capital.

  Without being too suspicious, I took a few glances at the woman sitting next to me. Her hair was in a messy bun as she typed away on her laptop. The click of her nails against the keyboard grew more irritating as the minutes bored on. Click, click, click. She got off in Baltimore. I eventually missed the comfort of the clicks.

   Just a few seats diagonal of me sat a teenage boy watching Big Mouth on his MacBook, which I watched over his shoulder for a good hour.

  When my people-watching abilities were all exhausted, I laid my head against the window and watched the landscape roll by. We passed through a few more packed stations, chugged through some vast fields and bustling streets, and before I knew it, we were in D.C. I managed to get through the entire ride, only picking up my phone a few times.

  It felt surprisingly liberating to be free from the chains of technology, from the obnoxious conversations of strangers, and from the distractions of the world.

  When I boarded the train again on Sunday night after my fun-filled trip was completed, I did something I wouldn’t have done a few days earlier.

  I chose the quiet car.