Not too long after dawn on this Tuesday morning, I stood on a platform waiting for my train. It came around the corner like a big, serious animal, turning around the building with a grace surprising for something so massive and mechanical. Maybe I have been reading too much about whales lately, but it seemed to move like one of the mid-sized leviathans, its course inevitable, its thrust through space silent except for a hum on the tracks. I am headed into New York today for a “social media summit.” Were I not on this journey, I would spend much of my day on social media, writing a few blog posts, posting things on the Twain House twitter feed, taking breaks by watching things on youtube, and filtering many of my conversations through the convenience of facebook. It is a bright and chipper way to work and, frankly, I like it. Social media comes along with all kinds of strange new social cues and habits, and not all of them good. But the bottom line is that social media makes my job (both as a marketer for the Twain House and as a writer) easier, more effective, and more fun, so I am going down to New York to learn how to do it better. I’m signed up for all of the “201” classes. It will be a day of branding and strategizing.
And yet, I know already that this train, carrying me over Stamford now, this old and quiet technology, will be the best part of my day. It is morning and the sun is coming in only on my seat. The passengers seem to have agreed on a certain low speaking pitch. This all seems easy and simple and old-fashioned. Even when we pass a train that is out of commission, slayed with beautiful graffiti, the scene seems ancient. I have traveled often by train and they always make me feel this way.
But this, too, was once a new technology; this kind of journey, too, once changed everything. The train was a harbinger of a new life on standard time, on schedules. It came for us, turning quiet and inevitable through the cities we had made, pulling up to our eager, upturned faces, inviting us to ride, inviting us to be carried into a new era.