JP's Corner of the Columnsphere

I LIKE travelling by train, on the whole.
Should I get bored with watching the
world go by I am usually able to use the
time productively; writing a newspaper
column, for example.
There’s no shortage of material here,
either. Currently, I feel that the woman
across the aisle who has been sporadically
bursting in to ‘song’ deserves a mention,
and I find it a bit odd that the bloke
opposite me has just donned a cycle
helmet. I don’t know about you, but
I’m quite a fan of people watching (not
in a stalker-type way, fear not) and the
train is a good place to indulge in this
particular past-time.
When I think about it, the notion that
I can sit in close proximity to so many
people, possibly even for a few hours
of my life, and not interact with them
really is quite strange. It’s as though
there is some an unwritten rule that
no matter how extroverted, you must
become entirely absorbed in your own
personal space upon boarding a train.
Every good rule has its exceptions of
course, especially if the train grinds to a
halt somewhere, but the conversation is
rarely groundbreaking.
The same pattern can be seen across
all forms of public transport; making
eye contact with anyone on the London
Underground, for example, is not The
Done Thing. The advent of the MP3
player is quite probably to blame for
reinforcing this mindset; these days, most
trains and buses are like Glastonbury’s
Silent Disco without the dancing.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t see the
attraction in feeling obliged to talk for
ages about someone’s neighbour’s hip
replacement (especially when I have a
column to write) but it would be nice
if we were less anti-social.
Things must surely have been
different at one time. A couple I know
first met on the train and for me the very
idea carries with it an air of romance.
I missed my chance recently when an
attractive young lady boarded my train
and sat opposite me. Things proceeded
She smiled at me.
I smiled back.
I continued reading
She looked out of the window/did her
make up.
She smiled at me.
I smiled back.
[repeated numerous times until I got
off the train].
Surprisingly even I couldn’t think
of anything to say, and ultimately the
story is pointless, though I have been
left pondering whether or not one could
ever start a successful relationship
with the words “does this train stop at
-I’m not bitter, but whilst we’re talking
about trains I am am forced to end
with a small rant. You may be aware
that overcrowding has been a problem
recently in the Bath/Bristol area, and
as I understand it, interference from
the Department for Transport (DfT) is
to blame. The same DfT who’ve just
announced plans to implement road
charging and spy on us in the process.
I wonder if it will apply to ministerial
limousines… I shouldn’t be so negative
since the there will be a massive
environmental benefit: imagine the
reduction in carbon emissions there
will be when everyone in Britain is
forced (by poor public transport and
unaffordable road charges) to stay at

[taken from Bath Impact on March 5th, 2007].


dave said…
Poor guy was too shy to speak to a hottie on the train :(
Tim said…
Hmm, yes I think you're quite correct when you say that things must have been different at some point in time, but look at public transport these days, the first thing you here over the tannoy is no smoking, do not leave baggage unattended, you will be fined for having an incorrect ticket, break windows if we crash, it's a fairly negative start, and does little to put me in a social mood, I usually find myself asking why I did not take the car! Add to this the fact that we are now glued to our laptops / ipods / mobile phones, as a society we no longer feel the need to interact with those in our immediate vicinity when our friends, family, music, websites, work etc is merely a click away. Sad but true.

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