SEPTA wanted to know who found love while riding the trains. With its contest, SEPTA found that the Temple University train platform might be the new place to find the love of your life.
For some Temple students, finding a Valentine this year was as easy as riding the bus.
The age-old proverb says love happens when you least expect it. Sure, this cliché has proven true on the silver screen, but what if you met your soul mate on an everyday commute or weekend trip into Center City on a SEPTA vehicle?
Occurrences like these are surprisingly not rare. While the neon orange décor and fluorescent light fixtures do not evoke images from The Love Boat, scores of SEPTA users have reported finding someone special on the subway, Regional Rail, trolley or bus lines.
In January, SEPTA announced a contest to shed light on these love stories. Known as “Moving Love Stories,” the contest requires riders to submit their stories about finding Mr. or Ms. “Right,” or “Right Now,” or even reigniting a former flame while in transit.
SEPTA’s spokeswoman Jerria Williams said the judges wanted the most original, romantic or heart-warming stories.
The 14 “Moving Love” winners were announced Feb. 6. They will receive a ride on Feb. 14’s “Love Train,” which will be decked out in Valentine’s Day decorations, courtesy of the Mural Arts Program. The train will ride past the Love Letter project in West Philadelphia. A reception for the winners will follow.
One of the winning couples first caught eyes at the Regional Rail’s Temple station. Jared Remer, a 24-year-old senior American studies major, saw his now-sweetheart Gabby Shlyapok, a 24-year-old public health major, on the outbound side of the R3 to West Trenton last September.
For weeks, Remer only stared from afar and could not muster the courage to introduce himself.
In October, weary from the situation, Remer knew he had to act soon, he said, if he wanted romance to spark. Shylapok beat him to the punch.
“She definitely tested my masculinity,” Remer said. As she exited the R3 at her usual stop, Shylapok passed him a note that said, “Say ‘hi’” and gave Remer her phone number.
“The rest is history,” Remer’s submission letter read. The two went on several dates throughout the month, sharinga hot coffees and cold beers.
“The relationship grew serious around the holidays,” he said.
“I never thought I’d meet someone at Temple, or on a train, for that matter,” Remer said. “When we tell people how we met, they definitely find it unique, but they also tend to appreciate that uniqueness.”
Other Temple students have also confessed to finding romance on the train, like Naomi (whose name has been changed), who has been dating her SEPTA sweetheart for five years. Between the Broad Street Line’s Oregon and Spring Garden stops, she “kept shooting him looks and coy little smiles” but felt nervous, she said, as she was only in high school and he was a student at the Community College of Philadelphia.
They fatefully exited the train at the same stop, and she rushed to keep up with the 6-foot-3-inch hunk, “just to be near him.” When he finally noticed Naomi, his greeting – “Yo!” – turned her off, but she knew there was something special about him and went for it. Both eventually ended up as Temple students and are still happily in love.
Freshman pre-medicine major Rich Shur also has a smoldering love story that began on the R5 with a beautiful girl holding a birdcage. He said the finches’ sweet song directed his attention to her and eventually engaged her in conversation.
“Our romance blossomed during that ride,” he said. But like their ride on the R5, their short-lived romance came to an end, leaving Shur with only fond memories.
Sophomore sociology major Matt Lachs said he owes Temple’s half-time success to his lucky train ride. Halfway through the Temple’s game at Villanova, Lachs hopped on the northbound train back to Temple. There, he met two fellow female classmates. One gave him “a very good kiss goodnight at Girard,” he said.
Both students agreed to leave their romance on the train and have not seen each other since, but neither one of them harbors hard feelings, Lachs said.
Not all Temple students are so open-minded.
“Oh, I’ve found cute boys,” freshman film major Bridget Siegfried said, “but I don’t feel comfortable approaching them on the train.”
“If it’s true love, the circumstances of how you meet don’t matter,” said Stephanie Catrambone, a freshman French major. “Personally, I wouldn’t be open to the idea of starting a relationship with somebody who sat across from me [on SEPTA].”
Perhaps some people are destined to find their other half online at Match.com, at McFadden’s singles’ night or in the office. Maybe finding that someone special will take weeks and endless compatibility reports. But for a lucky few, love only requires two tokens and a destination. The rest is an adventure.
SEPTA will post all 14 stories on its Web site Feb. 10.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.