Train Time

4 12 2009

As I write this, I am currently sitting on a dank London tube surrounded by bags and trying not to stare at the older gentleman across from me wearing a blue pinstriped suit with red tie. I am fascinated by his chunky gold pinky ring which reflects his scowl every time he catches me sneaking glances. Because here’s the deal: I love people watching. I love to get on a train with no headphones, no book and with no agenda and just observe my fellow commuters. People are fascinating. Some are afraid of other passengers and try to fill up the seating area while others appear to be so perilously lonely that if nobody sits down they will just sink back and be engulfed by the stale, sweaty seats.

Different tube lines have different scents. None of them are pleasant. The metropolitan line always smells like manure but a woman behind me is eating an orange. The zest has wafted throughout the carriage and even Mr. Pinky Ring seems grateful for it.

Some people get on the train and continue loud, raucous, inappropriate conversations. I like these folk better than those that drop to a stage whisper and look around as if the carriage is conspiring to spread their secrets. These are still better than those that believe public transport is their bathroom and apply lashes of makeup, clipping their fingernails and occasionally painting them for good measure. And the few that know people watching is happening grab an intelligible newspaper and wait to be scoped doing heavy reading.

I’ve switched onto a train now and am zooming North towards Manchester. I see rolling hills, horses, sheep and every other cliche of the British countryside. Thatched roofs and slightly browning, wispy grass that stretches dormant as far as I can see. Horses and cows grazing peacefully in shared pastures. Why can’t humans get along so well?

The wet slick of a puddling field winked up through the bales of hay. This is how I see this country. I think the majestic foliage is lost on those napping around me. Back to people watching I go.

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