Once upon a time I met a guy named Tom Farrell...
I decided to go home this weekend to see my family and take a break from the bustling city. I live in a small and quiet town called Peapack & Gladstone in New Jersey. Getting on board the NJ transit train in Penn Station, I fell asleep instantaneously. My work week really demolished my energy, I drank four coffees just to get through today! Anyway, as I awoke I realized I wasn’t far from home. I took out my book and read for a couple of minutes before I made my way to the front of the train. Gladstone is the last station in the train line so all the remaining passengers have to make their way up to the front of the train as we get near our destination. With two backpacks on my shoulders and a book in hand, a man across from me asks “Is that a history book you’re holding?”. I laugh and say “If only, it’s a book about investing.” He then goes on making jokes about buying low and selling high, split stocks, and investing in a company called “Apple”. I laughed and we talked across the aisle of the train. I asked him, “Why are you coming in from the city” to which he replied “No, I actually live in Gladstone.” I asked again but this time a bit louder. He replied, “I like to go into the city and go to the library… I also like the hamburgers they sell across the street from Penn Station.” I told him “that’s awesome, the New York Public Library is incredible.” He says “Oohhh yes, the library is very big… and oh, I also like to get ice cream two blocks west of the Dunkin Donuts.” I laughed and smiled after almost everyone of his responses. He says, “So I assume you’re in college right?”, I react saying “Yes, I go to Fordham.” He goes “Ohh...Fordham… you got those damn Jesuits!” I chuckled and said “Yes! I love the Jesuits!” He laughs and tells me the Jesuits are stupid and he prefers the Holy Cross Fathers. I asked him where he went to school and he replied stating Notre Dame. I told him my grandfather went there and it brought a smile to his face. As the door between train cars opened up it got harder to hear him so I moved next to him. I put out my hand and tell him my name, he replies saying his is Tom. I ask Tom why he goes to library and he tells me he’s reading about taxes, 1250’s to be specific. He’s been having trouble with them recently so he’s trying to learn more about them. Tom then goes onto say he knew taxes very well at one point in his life. He did taxes for family members, corporations, clients etc. However he told me he’s been having strokes throughout the year and he’s lost a lot of his knowledge. It was a bittersweet moment. On the one hand I saw a man putting effort into keeping his ability and knowledge, and on the other I could see that he knew he was losing himself. At one point in the conversation a tear fell from his eye and I don’t think he even noticed it.
He asked me if there was a library in Gladstone and I say yes, right on main street across from Liberty park. I was a bit surprised he didn’t know about it because the town is so small. He ponders for a moment and then asks again where it is. I tell him, “Once you get off the train walk right and follow the road, eventually you'll get there.” He tells me, “I don’t walk east when I get off the train I walk west!” I laughed again. For the rest of the train ride we talked about high schools and where we went. I told him I went to Seton Hall Prep, and he replies “Oh you might know my classmate John Allen”. John Allen was my algebra teacher, he is one of the oldest teachers at the prep and has been working there for at least 55 years. Tome went to St. Benedicts, a rival school of SHP. I asked him if he knew Jack Dolton, once the head basketball coach of St. Benedicts and my great grandfather. He gasped in amazement and laughed saying yes he knew Jack quite well. As the train came to a stop and the doors rolled open I asked Tom if I could write a story about him in this series I’m doing. He replied “Yes, my name is Tom Farrell, spelt F.A.R.R.E.L.L, describe me as a thick-head irishman… or an old fart.” Once more I laughed and told him to keep that smile on his face because I was big fan of it. “Have a good day Alex!” “You too Tom.” Tom walked west as I walked east. It was a pleasure to meet you Tom Farrell.