Elephant & Castle: How Fond I Am of Trains in Other Cities

When I was in London, I bought myself a day pass for the Underground and rode it all over the city. Underneath the confusing, not remotely grid-like streets, skimming along through the compact tunnels, I felt like I had unlocked a secret warren of passages. I was proud of myself when I stood in a jam-packed car without falling over, my grip resting only lightly on one of the poles, or my arm looped casually around it. Time didn’t seem to matter down there; I would get to my destination whenever I got there, and if I went a stop too far, why, I’d simply turn around and find my stop again. I fancied myself one of Those People, the well-traveled ones who snatch up a map of the local public transportation upon arrival and use the privilege for all it’s worth.

I felt the same way nearly four years ago when my father took me to Boston to look at a college. After a kind stranger showed us how to purchase the correct day passes and positioned us directly in front of where the doors to the car would be, I picked up the workings of the T like that. My dad helped me navigate, of course (he wasn’t about to let a Teenage Girl Wander the City Alone) but I began figuring out the geography of the city and how the T could bring us closest to where we needed to be. I could picture myself there, heading into the city for the day from campus, studying on my way back, my highlighter barely shaking with the motion of the tram.

When I went back to Boston with my mother, I was the one showing her how to use the T. She knew how to read public transportation maps, of course, but I remembered a good deal of the system from my first trip. She didn’t always trust me on which line we should take, but I knew. I was confident.

Confidence was a big deal for me then. It still is. It baffles me that the girl who only rides certain bus routes in this small university town for fear of ending up lost could step onto trams and trains in strange cities and feel perfectly at ease.

I don’t know why I love train travel. Maybe it’s just nice to feel so in control, to look at those multicolored webs and know exactly where I’m going. College is a lovely time of life, but I’m not always certain as to where I’ll end up. When I heard the robotic voice say, “Tower Green,” on the other hand, I knew I’d found my stop.

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