Saturday 16 October 2010

People On Trains

People using means of transport together are always good for some observing, and since I do not drive (I have written more about that topic here), I get plenty of occasion for such observation; for instance, today, when I travelled back home from Munich where I had been since Thursday afternoon to work at a trade show.

Travelling for business for me is, as for probably everyone else, getting from A to B in what I hope to be the most hassle-free manner. Usually, the intercity trains fit that description, although I do not understand why it is so difficult to get the temperature inside the carriage to an acceptable level. Summer or winter, rain or shine, I am always invariably cold on those trips, and today was no exception.

(Let me assure you I am adequately dressed most of the time.)

That was actually not what I was going to write about now, so let me try and get back to topic: People; people on trains and how they behave.

There may be billions of us on this planet, and each and everyone an individual, but of course we do follow patterns of behaviour. Different patterns, yes, and some more and others less so, but patterns nonetheless.

Take what I like to call the average train carriage combo; it often consists of the same type or kind of people.

You get families with children, and while the majority of them are well-behaved, there are almost always one or two who either whine, cry and complain, or play games involving ceaseless repetitive noises that make everyone glad when said family is making ready to get off the train and you hear a collective sigh of relief when they are gone (while nobody dares to protest in their presence, since it is soooo well known that we are a nation of child-haters!).

Then there is the chatty elderly lady who manages to entertain not only the passenger happening to be in the seat next to her (and whose aquaintance she makes instantly, before the train even leaves the station, on her initiative) but the whole carriage by recounting funny incidents based on her own 84-year-long life experience, interspersed with gems of homebrew philosophy and cackling laughter.

(The one-woman-show I witnessed today was telling some hair-raising stories with refreshing political incorrectness, all of which portrayed her as the modest *cough cough* and open-minded and oh-so-tolerant polyglott lady with the heart of gold and the razor-sharp mind who, in the most casual manner, solved an entire crossword puzzle for her immediate neighbour on the short distance between Munich and Augsburg.)

We all know the suit-wearing V.I.E. (Very Important Executive) who is either tapping away on his laptop or notebook nonstop, or on the phone about some business or other (or both at the same time), none of which is very interesting to observe.

It is as good as impossible to find anyone just sitting there and doing nothing but looking out of the window; people listen to music on their ipods or play games on their mobile phones or send and receive messages, or - still very much en vogue - read books, papers, or magazines.

Depending on the length of the trip, its scope, whether I am in company or not, and of course the mood I am in, my activities on train rides vary.
And in spite of being a confessing full-time egoist, I do aim not to be a nuisance to my fellow travellers (the word "ring tone" comes to mind...).

Things are just so much easier for everyone if people show some consideration towards each other, don't you think?


  1. I especially enjoyed your trip on the train. Living in Southern California, USA, I have no experience with train travel...we silly commuters prefer to jump in our gas guzzling behemoths and line up, bumper to bumper, on six-lane freeways for the terrifying, nerve-wracking drive to and from our work places. Another example of Yankee excess.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Jill!
    I dare say the vast majority of people here in Europe do pretty much the same; not everyone is willing, ready or able to leave their own car behind and use public transport instead.
    There are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of travelling.