Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some things are alright

Riding MAX every day is usually an eye opener of one kind or another. I believe it is a salutary experience, but not always enjoyable. I have a grim determination to believe that human nature is basically neutral, if not good. Sometimes I have to fall back on statistics to convince myself of this. I think something like "Look at this train full of people. I find some of them obnoxious, or repulsive, or think they smell bad, but look at them: none of them are biting each other, threatening each other with death or bodily harm, and none of them know each other. If this was a room full of strange baboons, the carnage would be indescribable. Humans really are pretty nice, for primates."

So there I was on the Red Line from downtown. Usual assortment of people, usual assortment of critical-overshare types of converations buzzing around. At Lloyd Center, a little black girl, about seven, gets on the train with a white lady who is clearly kin to her, but it isn't clear in what relationship. The lady is totally unremarkable, and since I'm not at all motherly, the girl is pretty uninteresting too, except that she's wearing a plaid skirt I kind of like, and looks cleaner than most children that age do by 6:30 pm. They take a seat, facing this sullen looking late thirties-ish white dude with his black T-shirt, messenger bag, head and chin shaved to an identical stubble, 1-inch ear plugs and giant lip ring. He's reading a book.

The train starts moving, and I overhear the little girl say "Want to see my new earrings?" A man says "I would, please!" I look around, and it's Earplugs dude, who has happily put his book down, and is watching her pull several cards of cheap earrings out of a plastic bag. The train is noisy, so I don't hear everything they say, but I got the impression that she'd just had her ears pierced. He is clearly a guy who likes kids, and hangs out with them a lot. They compare the size of her dangley earbobs with the size of his earplugs, I hear her say "We were shopping at Claire's, and they were buy 2 get one free!" and he says "Claire's is good- I've bought earrings there too. Not in a long time, but, I have."  I decided not to stare at them, because I was grinning like an idiot, and then it was time to get off the train. They were talking about how how far it was to Gresham when I left.

There are so many things right about those 2 minutes on the train that it's hard to even think them all out.  But yes, it seems to be true that humans are really pretty nice, for primates.

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