Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gimme a smile

I don't ride trains very often, I ride metaphorical trains more often than the regular sort (just see my previous posts). However, it's usually a kind of half hearted intention of mine to use public transport more regularly, sometimes when it rains it pours and then there's times when I can go on a months long drought of PT (public transport) experiences. In the last few weeks I've spent my fair share of time on trains, more out of necessity than good 'green' intentions, it's been to save my energy for things other than driving and navigating traffic.

Most times I ride on PT I am reminded of why I don't like it and occasionally think 'oh yeah, this isn't so bad'. Today for example, I experienced both sides, the dual nature of riding a train. My trip to the destination was fine, the return home not so. As I stepped on board to head home I noticed that I'd chosen a carriage that was pretty much full, quite the contrast to the roomy trip I'd had just a couple of hours earlier. A seemingly nice and fairly regular kind of woman shifted to make room for me, I thanked her politely and sat down. I quickly recognised that there was a group of teenage boys (early teens) sitting to my left side when I heard them laughing over silly jokes in the paper and using the 'f' word. I considered turning around and requesting that they not swear because I found it offensive, but then considered that it could make the next 25 minutes kind of awkward for me.

I solved the problem differently by popping my headphones in and turning up the music. In my head I imagined an ipod ad being made in this very a scenario, with the slogan borrowed from another company 'it's times like need headphones'. Unfortunately the headphones did not block out the smell wafting from the feet of those teenage boys, that was to be something I just had to grin and bear. (As an aside, I think that the only time teenage boys are of any appeal are when they're your own or you're a teenager yourself). Speaking of grinning and bearing, I don't mean grin too literally, because people who do that when they're alone and on PT can quickly become dubbed a person to steer clear of. Note to self, consider this approach next time.

As if the story thus far isn't enough 'fun' for a 25 minute train trip, I then noticed the seemingly regular woman who sat next to me had started to tickle my bare shoulder with her long bobbed hairstyle. I glanced sideways through my sunglasses (essential item when on PT, helps avoid that uncomfortable eye contact that can happen) to see that she was nodding off. I wondered if she would wake up before her head actually hit my shoulder. In my head I was debating whether or not it would be ok if she rested her head on my shoulder. As I dialogued with myself in my interal debate she jerked upright, seemingly realising she was dozing. 'It's that time of year' I thought to myself, I can't blame the woman for feeling tired, surely now she will sit upright the rest of the trip or get off soon. Nope, she did neither, she continued every 2-3 minutes to touch my bare shoulder with her hair and scratch that same shoulder with her her jacket , followed by realising after around 30 secondas and tilting herself upright, only to repeat the pattern. I would say I continued the conversation in my head for around 5-10 minutes about whether or not if she chose to actually use my shoulder as a pillow whether I'd take it up with her, or just have compassion for my fellow human being and leave her be.

I came to decide that no I did not want her head on my shoulder and should it occur I'd be nudging her promptly. I tuned out from all that was going on around me and just enjoyed my music from that point on, vowing to blog about trains upon arriving home.

Before I finish up here, I need to mention my 5 hour trip between the country and city the other week. Who you sit next to on a longer journey like this is pretty critical, I like to suss out the others and get a vibe. Our seat numbers were chosen for us, so it was pot luck really. When I found my seat I felt grateful, I was sitting in a 2 seat row facing another 2 seats. The girl next to me looked decent and like she wouldn't cause me any distress and the older 'Grandma' looking woman opposite seemed fine too. However I still secretly hoped they'd both be getting off before our final destination so as I could have leg room.

Early on in the trip I became hopeful that 'the Grandma' would be leaving us soon, I mean, getting off the train. This false hope was ignited by behaviour that made it seem as if she was touching herself up before she was to meet her family, yes I decided she was going somewhere to stay with her family for a while. The way she spruiced herself up was a little strange though, she was pouring water from her waterbottle onto her hand and using it to moisten her short grey permed hair. Now, as you could imagine, pouring water into your hand and getting it to your head is no easy feat and not really the sort of thing you do on a train. I reconciled this strange behaviour in my head by telling myself that it's probably just a generational difference in 'social norms'.

A little later I realised something strange was going on with this well presented 'Grandma', as for the second time in the trip she took out a packet of 'wet ones' or the like and lifted her handbag up to wipe the entire thing, then setting it back down on the seat next to her. She did this at least three times during the trip, my mind quickly went to making sense of what she was doing by diagnosing her with 'Obsessive compulsive disorder'. Upon diagnosis I decided to let it go and went back to reading my book properly (rather than just staring at the pages, distracted by my fellow traveller). The woman's beahviour actually caused me no trouble whatsoever, until she purchased some kind of disgusting hot quiche from the train kiosk. The smell of it made me feel sick.

So that's my most recent public transport stories, if you didn't laugh atleast once this whole time then I think you could atleast give me a little smile now, couldn't you?

I know I'm not alone in this, please do share your own experiences in the comments section!


  1. Sorry, still wincing about Granny's moist perm!

  2. I did smile after reading about your experience. That guaranteed, I assure you I had my share of "funny" experiences with poor transport system in general. Over crowded buses, unruly passengers, little respect for fellow passengers, have been through all.

    Hope 2011 brings better, pleasurable journeys for you!


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