Know this well — whenever you see a train that has cars full of people, followed by a moderately empty car, followed by another packed car, avoid the empty car — it is empty for a reason. The reason is usually someone on the train who may have soiled themselves, perhaps days or weeks earlier, and is putting forth a smell stronger than the most foul orc.
In my haste one morning I found myself on such a train car and was relieved that there was no stink to be found. The car had a good number of people and all of the seats were occupied but for one row of seats, upon which someone earlier had managed to spill some sort of fruit juice — perhaps cranberry. It was not a major spill — really more of a trickle, a line of juice that went from one side of the seat to the other with small dots of juice spread on each side.
I stood and surveyed the train car, observing that there were plenty of people carrying purses and messenger bags. “Could it be,” I wondered to myself, “that not a single one of these people has a napkin or a bit of newspaper with which to wipe this spill?”
I put this thought out of my mind and took the Metro newspaper that I had read the previous day and dutifully wiped a large section of the bench seat, large enough for three people to easily fill. I noticed that some people had a dumbfounded expression as they looked at me wiping and wishing I had a small spray bottle of Mrs. Meyers Clean Day and a proper cloth.
It only took a couple of minutes to get the three person area in a condition fit for sitting and it wasn’t long before the space was occupied like Wall Street. The other half of the bench, meanwhile, was still entirely spattered with juice. Three people sat down on the bench regardless, but only taking up the front half of the seat so that their precious clothing would not get stained. I saw a woman take a napkin out of her purse, wipe her mouth, and then put the napkin back in her purse. I was for a moment excited with the idea that someone else on the train could possibly be thinking outside of their immediate needs and wants.
The splattered juice concerned not only me, but all riders of the train. Anybody could have taken the initiative to make the train ride better for everyone — both present and yet to board. It bothers me that there were so many people on the train, but because cleaning the train is considered a duty relegated to those paid to do it, the juice remained until I found and cleaned it.
Today, I want you to find a mess that you didn’t make, and clean it. I don’t mean to go out of your way to find one, but if on your going and coming you pass one such mess, take a couple of minutes to make the place better for everyone else.