Paul and I had scores of favorite phrases that we’d use with each other repeatedly. The origins of some of the expressions are lost in the mist of time. Others were born in our childhoods and the circumstances of their first iteration were vividly etched on our corneas and brains. Among them were the following.
Ice pearls from Sweden – they’re popular but rare.
If you have to ask, the answer is ‘No.’
You can’t get there from here.
What’s that smell?
You’re right. I don’t care. I am here for the amusement of it all.
Does this color make me look taller?
This is your Aunt Shirley.
Is this the person to whom I am speaking?
She had blotation of the rectonium.
Where did you get that?
I used to go there, but I don’t used to any more.
No matter how often we used these expressions over the decades, we’d laugh – sometimes way more than others, but we would invariably laugh. If Paul would have fallen and we were waiting for an ambulance, I might ask if he had blotation of the rectonium. His laughter would be a gauge of the extent of his injuries. These phrases were code in our marriage.
In community we also use code to express our connectedness and to report to each other that we are part of something bigger. Standing in line to get on the train in Milwaukee is mostly just standing in line. However, travelers coming back from Chicago to Milwaukee using monthly passes or 10-ride tickets are a different thing altogether. We have a community of sorts.
The 3:15 gang starts arriving in line at 2:25 to board at 3:00. The 5:08 gang starts arriving at about 4:35. The earlier train folks tend to verbalize less with each other and more with Amtrak staff. The later train group tends to talk more with each other. It seems more of them have been doing the ride for a decade or more. They swap kid stories and help each carry bags. Sometimes they even have picnics on board.
Both groups have perfected a death stare, however, that is reserved for people with single tickets. Single ticket holders board later and are viewed by us as novices. The words of our question – “Do you have a monthly ticket?” – sound innocent enough, but they are intended to convey something else.
When the interloper skulks away from the line for either train, we shake our heads slightly, as in, “Those kids!”
The earlier train also boasts our daily trailblazer. He always arrives five minutes before boarding and sails to the head of the line. No one objects. We just make eye contact with each other and smile. I once asked another guy why everyone puts up with him doing this. He told me that people used to object, but he kept doing it, so they stopped.
They don’t used to any more.