The Dinky always arrives a little loudly.
Its horn pulses through the campus, reverberating a haunting expectation of something that leaves more than it comes. Perhaps you don’t notice its pulling blare, but I do, she does, he does, and they do: the people whose steps land before their mind has decided where to place the feet.
Some may criticize us as unloving of Princeton. We are somehow too bored or hateful of the gothic towers to stay for long. This is mostly incorrect. It’s not that we are “too” anything really, but this place, Princeton, can be sometimes too, well… too. The University is the best, most interesting, talented, athletic, charitable… the funniest, quirkiest, wealthiest, oldest, longest. But through all this hard-edged pointiness of too much glides the humble dinky.
With worn leather seats and awkwardly sized overhead compartments, the dinky has a charm like well-loved calluses on hands that have met the world with a quiet boldness. Its short journey to Princeton Junction is a gentle gateway out of the Orange Bubble and reminds us that some journeys can be short and can be simple.
You may think romanticizing a train is a useless exercise of writing or thought. I politely disagree. It is important to acknowledge those objects that frame the canvas of our lives. They are objects that become increasingly peripheral the more we experience them, or rather, the more we take them for granted. To keep an appreciation for these objects quiet or hidden, would be to risk their degradation or removal on the assumption they were never valued.
The same I would say for people in our lives.
The sheer ease of connecting to one another through technology has made us lazy friends, family members, and partners. Most of us are generous with our thumbs (texting emojis that roughly package together our feelings), but too lazy or scared to use our voices, hands, or hearts.
When people seem to leave you more often than they come, and take more than they leave behind, it seems dangerous to share, to give a bit of yourself for their keeping. We don’t want to be seen as too caring, in fear that we are overwhelming to the other, or worse yet, unwanted by the other.
So instead, we play it cool. We’re “chill” right?
Life (at Princeton or elsewhere) sometimes sweeps us along, blurs our vision and presses down on our hopes, dreams and ideas with a numbing fatigue, and the people we care about become peripheral. During these times, we don’t need to “chill out”, but seek out some fundamental human warmth.
So I ask myself and you, to be courageous. Reject your fear of feeling too much, or saying the wrong words, or missing a deadline to call your mum, dad, sibling or friend. Voice your love, compliments and thoughts of people in the moment and not to the grand, empty halls of “tomorrow” or “in-five-minutes”. Enjoy it when their lips turn upward and their eyes crinkle together in a smile.
Your voice is a gift that cannot be deleted or “left on read”.
Between October 14th and mid-January, the Dinky service is temporarily absent from our lives at Princeton, and the campus is a little quieter without its horn. During this time, instead of being frustrated and wronged, we can instead remind ourselves of what and who we take for granted. And when the Dinky is back, its horn will give us courage. Courage to stay, to leave and to make ourselves heard.
A gift from a little train to you.
Thank you Dinky!