What I learned on the train today... | INFJ Forum

What I learned on the train today...


Well-known member
May 8, 2008
4w5- 469
I take public transport to work and I often share my train ride with a man whose speech is slurred and difficult to understand, who frequently talks to himself, and who often bursts out into laughter out of nowhere. I have observed others discomfort with this behavior through averted gazes, sharp exhalation of breath and tightened mouths, and shifting visibly in seats to be even just a few more centimeters away.

Today as the group was moving toward the opening doors of the train, the man burst out in a slurred expression that was clearly one of joy. "Green!" he shouted as he pointed to the advertising on the train. Then he burst out into hearty laughter and slurred, "Chartreuse".

As I walked the remainder of the way to work this morning I thought about his self-expression. Perhaps because of developmental disabilities, this man appears to be less aware of social expectations than is typical. His behavior certainly often appears to run up against the social expectation of his train mates. Yet, as I considered him, I could not say I picked up any sense of discomfort over the social disapproval. I felt envy.

I so often feel anxious over what someone thinks of me and will modulate my behavior to meet perceived social expectations, or remove myself from a situation where I do not believe I am up to meeting expectations. I am aware there is much of myself unexpressed because I do not believe I am in the presence of those who will receive my expression positively.

I do not think I am dismissing the difficulties the man on the train must live, but I know I wish for some measure of his ability to express.

I thought too this morning of my nephew who is autistic with very limited verbal skills. When I am with him, I struggle to pick out a word or two to clue me in on what he's trying to tell me. He's concurrently signing words with his hands that I don't understand and he will keep repeating his expression while I fail at attempt after attempt to offer him back something indicating successful understanding. At some point he usually just stops trying. My sense of sympathy at his giving up is strong because I have also frequently given up communicating after reaching the conclusion that continued attempts would not meet with understanding. For me that decision to withdraw self hurts, however my nephew just moves on without any sign of concern. I imagine sometimes how frustrating it might be to be trapped in communication vehicles that few can understand and yet he exhibits such easy-going patience with my incompetence.

Both of these people might be considered disabled by many, but I think they each may be in easy reach of a gift I struggle to catch infrequent glimpses of -- the joy of unselfconscious expression.

May we all experience this joy.
Interesting insights. Some years ago some friends from Eastern Europe (who were living here in the U.S. for a while) commented at just how many unwritten behavioral rules there are here....they felt there was much more latitude/tolerance in their home country for other than the norm. That was a bit of an eye-opener for me and, upon consideration, I could see they were probably right....I had never consciously thought about it before.
Anyway, as I am also a train commuter, I will say that a study could be done on local mass transit behaviors that would be highly amusing if nothing else...who you talk to, who you don't, who sits where or next to whom, how long one takes to find a seat, how much looking around one does in the process....and, of course, the ipod and texting as a viable social barrier of iron! It's like a secret language...and all the commuters sure do speak it!!!!!!
Nice thoughts, thanks for making this thread.