Originally was going to be called “The one when I write about the train”.
I initially wrote this a few weeks ago. I never published it, but tonight on the tube home I came across it again and thought for a moment how, earlier in this week, people who had previously had no common denominator, other than being in the same place in the same time, just as I’d been on the train with the people below, were thrust into a common sense of being… A mark in their life, and sadly in some cases a mark of their life….
The tube is mundane. Every day for the last 13 months, I’ve chucked myself out of bed at the crack of dawn, thrown myself through the bathroom, wandered (or ran when late) to the bus stop. Shoved myself on the bus before spending best part of an hour crammed into a metal tube train.
There is a very good reason why some lines on the London Underground are described as “tubes”. Small circular tube shaped tunnels with small circular tube shaped trains. You’re often in closer proximity to a stranger than you’re happy being in with your friends, and most of the time during rush hour it’s an unpleasant experience.
Yet this evening, post drinks with an ex-colleague, I found something beautiful in the experience. Thinking a little about it, the enjoyment possibly stems from the hell-like experience before dinner. I took the Jubilee line. Typically British were the queues on the platform, yet unlike Brits, in the least prim and proper way, it was a free-for-all to find a small space to cram yourself into once on the train. A man placed his arm in my face and left it there… There I was, three stops inside a random man’s arm.
Yet tonight, I got on the train somewhere else, somewhere different to my normal commute. I missed the first train. I couldn’t see the screen as to where it was going. As it left, I said to myself, “There’s a reason that happened”
The train arrived and it was fairly empty. Three people in my section, another couple of people further up the carriage. We spread ourselves out (As only the best British, non-communicative commuters could do) and got hard to work ignoring each other.
Whilst doing our best to ignore each other, headphones in, kindle in hand, and nervously playing with a shopping bag, my mind started to wander. Wondering about the lives of these random people sat so close to me. So close, yet so far. I studied for a second the diversity within the carriage. I noticed the lady opposite me was wearing a Muslim headscarf. The lady further up was holding a bag from a supermarket which didn’t have an English name. By now others had got on the train. Some tourists holding a book, a man with ripped jeans and a bright red coat. He had blonde highlights and I noticed the bright contrast of colours.
I started wondering about these people’s lives… Their upbringing, their personal history. A story I’m so close to, yet in a few moments time will be yet again so far away from. Had the Muslim woman always worn a scarf? How would she feel if she knew the music playing in My IPod was a Jewish song? Where did the woman with the supermarket bag come from? What did the man in the ripped jeans do for a job?
As I started writing this, I noticed that almost as I was studying each person for a split second, they got up and left the train. As this percolated in my head, I realised I could have spoken to them, smiled at them… I became so close to making a mark in their current history, their life, their moment, but didn’t. I’d stopped paying attention to the music playing in my iPod and was focused on them for a split second. But they had no clue.
I came to the conclusion that chances are they wouldn’t want me to make a mark in their lives. I’m a randomer on the train. But… It’s made me think deeply about the mark I leave on other peoples lives… My family… My friends… The people I work with.
At the end of the day, we’re all just on a train to our destination… No train service in the world runs perfectly without delay. There’s always the chance to get a red signal. But while the service is good, you have to make the most of your journey and ensure you leave a good mark on those in your carriage. Everyone gets off at a different stop in life.
(Talking of which, it’s time for me to get off this train!)
In memory of the 22 people unjustly murdered earlier this week at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester.
“We must fight terrorism as if there’s no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there’s no terror.” – Yitzhak Rabin