What comes to your mind when you see the word “American”?
And a follow-up question: To what extent is that formed by the news?
Saturay Morning, Raritan Valley Line
A family of three – father, mother and a 4-year old boy – walk around me in an aisle of a train. As they pass my seat, I hear a voice from the side of the train where they came from: “Please, come sit here.” I look over my shoulder – a young man and a young woman – probably his girlfriend – are standing up from their seats. On this train most of the seats on in twos, facing in the same direction. However, the one where the young couple was sitting had 2 double seats facing each other.
“You’re three. You’re use it better here than the two of us.”
“Thank you, that’s sweet of you”, responds the mother. The family turns around, seat themseves and make themselves comfortable.
Three minutes later, the train conductor arrives.
“Good morning”, he greets the parents.
“Good morning”, say the parents. “Good morning”, says the boy.
“Oh,” the conductor looks at the boy while marking the tickets. “I see you’re heading to New York. Any special occasion? Any special show?”
“Yes”, says the boy with a broad smile. “The Lion Kiiing”.
“Oh wow, the Lion King?” The conductor reacts, adding excitement to his voice. “I haven’t seen that one yet. Will you take me with you? Do you maybe have an extra ticket?”
The boy is not sure how to react. He looks at his mom, seeking help.
“Oh don’t worry,” says the mom to the conductor. “We’ll find a way to sneak you in.” The boy looks from his mum to the conductor and back. He’s guessing they are not serious – but is not 100% sure. A few seconds of silence, and then: All the three adults laugh.
The conductor says goodbye and continues on his way through the train.
Maybe you’re wondering: “So what happened next? Where’s the story?”
That’s the point: Nothing else happened. A Saturday morning on a New Jersey train. Not the kind of moment that makes the international news. And yet, this is what comes to my mind when I see the word “American”. Kindness to strangers. Friendly customer service. Love for a show.
I think of all the other places I know only from the stories that do make the news.
I am curious to see what Saturday mornings look like there.