THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Kateri Allard Headshot

Stand Clear

Posted: Updated:

I commute to and from work on the subway. Actually, its New York, I commute everywhere on the subway. I remember as a child being terrified of this underground transit system each time I visited a major city. I was overwhelmed by the people, sounds and smells. I finally got over it a few years ago, and now, a few months into my life here I hardly notice any of it. I made it halfway to work recently before realizing that the person sleeping next to me had gone to the bathroom in her pants and had her bare un-pedicured foot resting on me knee. Eventually everything becomes monotonous, routine, normal even; the people, the sounds and the smells.

The other day I rode home after a particularly draining and frustrating day. There are a variety of challenges in the pediatric intensive care unite (PICU) that become routine, but every once in a while things are different, testing. The frustrations and tasks vary from the norm and it had been one of those days. I was cranky, hungry and drained. I slumped into the seat, too tired to find my headphones or pull my book out of my bag. The train lurched away from the first station, the way it always does but for once my body and my brain were on the train together, undistracted. When we reached the next station new passengers boarded the train.

Stand clear of the closing doors.

A voice boomed above me. This, too, is a part of city living that you learn to tune out. I typically have ear buds in and music blaring to drown out the sounds of my co-commuters. Without them I was struck by the sound of the man's voice, his inflection and tone. The observation entered my mind and quickly escaped again as I instead made lists of things I needed to do and inventoried the day's events once more.

Until the next stop. When again I was aware of his warning. It happened again and again, stop after stop until my final destination, when I stood clear on the other side of the closing doors.

Typically these warnings are monotone, garbled, or in such a thick accent you can't decipher the words despite the fact that you know full well what it is that they are saying. More times than not there is a distinct agitation mixed into the warning, as if the speaker would prefer to insert a four letter word or two in with their statement, it reads like a threat more so than a concerned warning.

This man was different. Each time, he spoke not as if he were addressing a train full of uninterested non listeners, but as if he stood behind you, reached gently for the fly away end of your long coat, tucked it safely into the train, and reminded you, kindly, to "stand clear of the closing doors." His warning varied each time but was just as genuine stop after stop.

I think because I was so taken by the sound of his voice I listened intently at each stop, anxious to hear him again. By the time I arrived home it had become like a mantra in my head:

Stand clear of the closing doors.

Stand clear of the closing doors.

Stand clear of the closing doors.

How often is it that the words we hear each day but habitually ignore would better serve us as an intentional message? Maybe rather than scouring Pinterest for the next best quote we would be better served listening better in everyday life.

I often participate in change unwillingly. We say that whenever one door closes a window will open, or we shouldn't have wanted what was behind that door, or lock it and run. I look at closing doors with reluctance, I let go only when I have to. I am a victim of the change rather than an active participant.

When doors in my life are closing I certainly do not stand clear. I position my little body in the middle of the doorway while trying to muster super woman strength to force it open for just a little bit longer. Trying to squeeze out the last moments of whatever adventure I am on before the door closes with me stuck on the train leaving someone or something behind. Even worse, I'm left standing alone on the platform as the train leaves the station without me.

Yet over and over again I look back months later, thankful that I let the doors close and took the train to the next stop where something else, something better waited. Every single door that I have ever fought (and failed by the way) has resulted in something more than my initial plan or dream. I have written about this over and over again, but still I battle against the next closing doors. It is like a bizarre reflex. It feels like failure, even if I know it is right. I simply do not want a door to close, not on my time, not without a fight. I am the girl that will argue until I am blue in the face. You may prove your point half way in but I simply won't give up. I would rather be wrong than accept defeat. I am sweating and choking fighting the doors for a stop I don't even want to get off at.

Maybe I need to change my tactics and use my super powers for something other than fighting doors.

Perhaps instead of fighting I should learn to just stand clear.

A few years ago I visited my brother Matt in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was living for a year in college. The language is complex but I managed to learn three things that I can say to this day.

Da (Yes)

Niet (No)

And...

осторожны стоять в стороне дверей поезда закрываются. (Careful, the doors on the train are closing.)

Careful, stand clear, stop fighting, the doors are closing.

From Our Partners