Monday, 1 December 2014

The train

I stood on the platform waiting for the delayed train with the hundreds of other people. Huddled together against the cold, like a colony of penguins, equally shielding each other from the worst of the cold, whilst never looking in any single person's direction.

As the train pulled in, we moved as one towards the doors, performing the same routine as on every other train platform across the UK; simultaneously trying to ram yourself through the door whilst still maintaining a terribly British sense of personal space.

We fought through the carriage, throwing ourselves down into the nearest seat, hurriedly shedding jackets and hats and scarfs and bags. Claiming the space as our own, casting glances at those who would be so bold to sit beside us.

Always moving as one yet always moving an individual.

We all sat in our own worlds, studiously ignoring those around us. Ensconced in books and phones, iPods and tablets. No-one looks up, no-one speaks.

I sat and wondered about them all. Keen to not think about my own thoughts that night I threw myself into imagining theirs.

I wondered what that girl was smiling about when she was looking at her phone - a message from a lover, a joke from a friend, embarrassing pictures from the night before, happy news from a relative.

I watched the two girls sat opposite me, whispering to one another so none of us could hear their conversation. It was a dissection of the night before, the scrolling through of a constant stream of messages - was she arguing with someone, or was there simply another person involved in the conversation, being filled in on the conversation happening on the train.

I looked at the guy next to me answering work emails and filling in cells on a spreadsheet. What was it that he did for a living? Was it what he always wanted to do, is it where he thought he'd see himself when he was a young boy?

I wondered where everyone was coming from and going to. A Sunday night could mean that everyone was going home after a weekend away, it could mean they were going away to start their working week. Where were they going to go once they got off the train? Would they be going home and what awaited them there - a house full of friends, a house full of family, a wife, a child, a pet, no-one at all?

They felt like they should be friends, I wanted to reach out to them all and ask them, find out about them. It felt like we should all be connected, all of us here on this delayed train. We all had that in common at least.

But I knew that I was alone. Alone on the train and alone in life. The only connection for me was going to be the next train I caught.

Out of the blue someone started playing a song out loud on their phone. Dancing Queen of all songs. There were mutterings, people turned around in their seats, people took out their earphones. And then it happened - we all caught each other's eyes. Some people rolled their eyes, others smiled, others out right laughed. We mimed the words at each other and danced in our seats. The girl put her phone down, something else momentarily funnier happening with us; the two girls stopped whispering and shook their heads laughing at each other and at the rest of us around; the guy left his spreadsheet alone for a moment, nodding his head along to Abba with the rest of us.

It happened. For a brief two minute period we were all connected. We looked each other in the eye and shared a moment.

And then the music stopped.


  1. What a beautifully written post. I've often felt like this on the train and there is so rarely that spark of human connection. Sometimes I feel like I must be the only one travelling alone, going from my solo home life to a solitary hotel room or next step of the journey. Tomorrow evening I will be on the train to London & have to decide if I can face dining alone in the big city... Maybe I'll play abba on the train & see what happens... :)

  2. Beautifully written. Moments like those can be quite uplifting. A shared looked about a comedic or worrying scene, or even a conversation, with someone you've never met and will likely never see again can be lovely. So much so that I have often found myself wondering if it will happen, even secretly hoping it will. And you're not the only one who feels alone on a train full of people.

  3. I wonder if they'd played this sing before? Or will ever do so again?


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