Friday, February 14, 2014

Love on the train ain’t no surprise

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Save me a seat, and I’ll look into your eyes . . . . My apologies to Neil Diamond.

Remember “Silver Streak,” the 1976 movie starring a long-distance luxury passenger train, and a supporting cast with such Hollywood luminaries as Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh, Ned Beatty, and Ray Walston? A send-up of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” the movie featured a budding romance between Wilder and Clayburgh, amid all the action. Of course, they ride happily off into the sunset (in a car, though) after the runaway Silver Streak crashes through the concourse of Chicago Union Station. Bad guys dead or arrested, the good guy gets the girl, and the train station implodes. All in a day’s work.

Caltrain Romance 1Today, Valentine’s Day 2014, we have the story of the real-life romance of Caltrain commuters Sujata Mahidhara and Anirudh Joshi, whose courtship has been a bit less eventful than Wilder and Clayburgh’s fictional encounter with mayhem and murder. I’ve seen some innovative marketing by transit agencies (check out APTA’s AdWheel awards), but this story really takes the cake . . . er, chocolates.

Here’s the story, as Caltrain’s Will Reisman tells it:

“Sujata Mahidhara is a huge proponent of Caltrain. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to seamlessly commute to her job as an engineer in Sunnyvale. She wouldn’t be able to focus on work productivity instead of battling Highway 101 traffic. She also wouldn’t have the chance to decompress with friends after work, building a social network of other Caltrain regulars. And, at the top of that list, she wouldn’t have met her fiancé, Anirudh Joshi, this past May.

Gotta plug those rail transit benefits up front. All true, of course . . . . Read on:

“‘We’ve talked about this, and we both agree, that if it weren’t for Caltrain, we may never have started dating,’ said Mahidhara, who moved to the Bay Area from Canada five years ago. ‘Ani describes it as an ideal dating situation. You get 45 minutes of someone’s undivided attention, at the end of which there’s no awkward kiss or reach for the check. Just a promise to see each other again on the train the next day.’”

I’m telling you folks, it doesn’t get any better than this! But read on:

“Mahidhara and Joshi, also an engineer and president of a small Sunnyvale startup, originally met on May 17, 2012, at their mutual friend’s trunk show (what’s a trunk show?) in San Francisco. Although they chatted for about 20 minutes, they parted without exchanging phone numbers. Fortunately, about one month later, they bumped into each other again at Caltrain’s Mountain View Station. Mahidhara gave Joshi her number, not realizing that he had been trying to corral her contact information from her friend the whole time.

“After talking, the couple realized that they both lived near Caltrain’s San Francisco Station and worked just a few blocks apart in Sunnyvale. Mahidhara also noticed that after their first meeting, Joshi began to ‘conveniently’ show up on the same train as she for their morning and evening commutes, opting for Caltrain over driving.”

Hey, when you meet the love of your life, you’ll do anything, including leaving the car at home! Sorry to interrupt . . . .

“‘Sharing a daily train commute was a great way to get to know each other. He really became a confidante who shared my good days and my bad ones, offered advice when I needed it and a listening ear when I didn’t, and shared a silent commute with side-by-side laptops when deadlines loomed,’ said Mahidhara. ‘As our friendship grew, I started noticing how well he interacted with my other friends, and how some of his comments and points of view resonated with me unexpectedly.’

Caltrain Romance 2“With plenty of time to get to know each other during their commute on Caltrain, the two went out on their first date a month after their encounter at the Mountain View Station; less than a year later, they became engaged. Their wedding is set to take place in Sonoma this May, exactly two years after they first met.

“‘Caltrain almost works as a filtering device for dating,’ said Mahidhara. ‘If you see someone on the train regularly during peak hours, you can often infer that he’s employed and successful, since he’s commuting to Silicon Valley and likely fun and outgoing, since he’s commuting from San Francisco. It works as well as any dating site!’”

See, successful, educated people do take public transportation! Sorry to interrupt again . . . .

“A commuter rail system might not strike many people as the most romantic meeting grounds, but Mahidhara and Joshi are both well aware of the influence Caltrain played in their relationship, and they’ve decided to pay homage to that during their wedding festivities. ‘We’re going to have Caltrain tickets for our table seating assignments at our wedding,’ said Mahidhara. So Caltrain—public transportation and matchmaker, at your service.”

What, no wedding aboard a private railcar?

As Tom Hanks, the Conductor, said at the end of “The Polar Express” movie (another great train adventure), “One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”