'For more than a year Walter Mason and the woman with one ear nodded to each other at 5:22 pm, or thereabouts, when the Western Local pulled into Lincoln station. It is a story about routines and how they can quickly become both tedious and necessary for order. Walter follows his normal routine which one day suddenly spirals out of control. The woman with one ear is not there when he gets off the train, the train has a different conductor, and the train does not make a stop where he lives. On one last ride on the train Walter gets on and finds the train nearly full. 'As the train moved on, he sensed a person sitting down at the edge of his seat. When he looked over, he saw the woman with one ear. "I'm sorry to intrude," she said, "but the train is so full today."
"No, it's fine, there's plenty of room," he said, drawing himself closer to the window so she would not be frightened. Walter breathed the intoxicating scent of some delicate perfume. He felt the vinyl seat shift under him as she settled into her place.'