I was in St. Louis last week, speaking to IT professionals about how information technology and the handheld computer are reprogramming human behavior (in good ways and bad). It was a great meeting with lots of constructive exchange.
The morning of my departure I found myself with more time than usual to get back to the airport. My downtown hotel was a $50 cab ride from the airport, and later learned there was the Metrolink, a train that could have dropped me off close to my hotel that cost $2 for seniors. I travel often, and have never taken public transportation to or from an airport, but since I had time on my hands before my flight and discovered that half way between the hotel and the Metrolink station was the St. Louis Bread Company (part of the Panera franchise) that makes one of my favorite breakfast pastries called a “Cobblestone”. It’s a break-apart cinnamon/caramel muffin that’s gooey all the way through with lots of raisins. I thought why not stop and pick one up, along with a Chai latte and the NY Times and nibble. sip, and read for 35”… this is my idea of a Breakfast of Champions.
I picked up all the goodies and continued on to the Metrolink station. Standing next to the ticket machine was a young man in dreadlocks (perhaps mid-20’s), who greeted me with a smile and asked if I needed ticket. I nodded warily, and he said he had a ticket for me. I was suspicious as he handed me the ticket, which I scrutinized…the date’s right, good for the whole day, so I asked him how much I owed him. He said he didn’t want anything, which must have left me looking like a deer stunned in the headlights, because he repeated that he didn’t want anything and added “just remember it”, reached out, shook hands, turned and left.
I got on the train, ate the muffin and sipped my tea, but never opened the paper. Instead, I looked out the window and reflected on meeting a stranger at a St. Louis train station that I usually never ride, who made me look at my preconceptions, see the light, and renewed my faith in our shared humanity. I will always remember it; maybe even take a train again.