Once stepping inside there is a sigh beside me. I look across as I lower myself into my seat by the window and sitting on the opposite side of the carriage to me is a gentleman with the meanest scowl imaginable.
How have I upset this poor fellow? I do not understand.
Was he not impressed with my choice of outfit? Or is the cause of his discontent my selection of beverage smouldering in my flask?
I think that it is neither of these.
He seemed particularly ‘cheesed off’ that I had managed to get on the train before he had. Well, sorry buddy, but – you snooze, you lose.
I sit there sipping my coffee and the train starts to pull out of the station.
As I sat there, I start thinking how commuting has become extremely game like, very strategic and combative in nature, and similar to a game of chess. It is all about calculating your move and predicting your opponents’ strategy.
Even I am a different person when I am travelling.
The realisation of this is shocking. There is no camaraderie – no sense of togetherness. Instead it is an “all for one & one for one” attitude that tends to grip people as they commute.
“Instead it is an “all for one & one for one” attitude that
tends to grip people as they commute.”
Why do people not talk to each other on their journey? Why do they not try to interact and build friendships during this time? If we in a pub on a night out it would be a different story. There would be chatting and laughter and people would make an effort to get to know new each other.
But on the commute – forget about it.
Instead the only noises around are the rhythmic thundering of the train travelling over the tracks, where a muffled music plays through a passengers headphones, accentuated by the sound of a muted-cough in the distance.
This is normality – this is 'commuterland'.
Any change to this equilibrium and chaos ensues.
A phone ringing, a crying child in a push chair – these are not part of the routine. They are foreign and are met with glaring eyes, shakes of heads and, where needs must, a soft but profound ‘tut’ or ‘sigh’.
I honestly cannot see a resolution to this issue, which is disheartening.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get on a peice of transport knowing that the people that you encounter will be people who would love to engage and interact with you?
I can imagine myself sitting on a train on my way into the office when a gentleman opposite me asks, “Hi, how are you today?”
I would like to think that I would respond in the usual conversational way, in “Hi, I am well. Thank you for asking. How are you?”.
But in reality, I know that this will never happen. In fact what past experiences has showed me is that instead it is more likely that I would put my headphones in, blocking out most of the world, while casually thinking - “Who is this guy? Weirdo.”
When actually all he is trying to do is to be sociable.
So, the next time I am on a train and someone tries to strike up a conversation I am going to make a point of joining in.