Train Ride

(Photo from bearyari @ Deviantart)

Even before the train stops at the station, you scan the coaches as they pass by. Some are full, some have a few empty seats in between, some are almost empty. Do you harbour a little wish that the carriage that stops in front of you will be almost empty, with only a few passengers scattered in the corners and maybe a lone ranger standing by the doorway with his headphones on?

Take a step in and a gush of cold air brushes over you, bringing with it the unmistakable yet indescribable odour of the automated light rail transit train. It carries with it a whiff of electrical ozone and the intangible passages of the countless people who have passed through its automatic doors.

Most people will choose the corner seats. If there are none available, you weigh your options. Should I sit in the middle of a row with two (or more) strangers next to me, or would I rather stand in the small space next to the door? The carriage is empty except for the few people sitting in the corners, so you take you chances and sit right in the middle of that 5-seat row. You feel somewhat relieved to see that nobody is sitting opposite, so you can stare out the opposite window without trying to avoid eye contact.

Your luck runs out sooner than you think it will. The train reaches the next station and somebody takes the middle seat in the opposite row. You observe the person with some curiosity at first. Black trousers, black shirt with the top button undone, a black bag, black formal shoes, today's newspaper. A glint of gold around his neck and wrist, hair cut almost to his scalp and a serious expression.

Aha, your mind says. He looks like a gangster from some Hong Kong film. Imagination goes into overdrive thinking about the possible scenarios of reasons why this person is on the train. What's that in his bag? Is he going to meet somebody in a sinister place? Why use public transport? Did he just get off 'work'?

In reality, the man places his bag on the floor between his feet, smooths his hair, opens up the newspaper, and starts reading the news. You find yourself almost staring, and quickly look away, pretending to be interested in the scenery from another window. It's funny how our minds can stereotype and make up stories about people whom we know nothing about.

Two more stations pass. It's an interchange, and the passenger on your right gets off at that stop. So does the passenger on the man's right. It's strange, how you automatically move over to the just-vacated corner seat, and feeling slightly amused to see that he has done the same.

Now your view has changed. There's a different person sitting opposite you now. It's a fairly large man with his earphones on, playing with his handphone. He's so intent on his activity that you don't feel weird taking a longer look. You see him shaking his head to the beat of some inaudible music, and twitching the phone left, right, up, down, horizontal, vertical as (you presume) he plays some game.

Meanwhile, the man all in black turns another page, pulls out the Business section of the newspaper, puts on the empty seat next to him, and continues reading. From here, you find that he seems much more normal; just another commuter on the train.

Another stop. A lady with a child enters the coach. You can almost see her evaluating the situation. One, take the middle seat between the two men. Two, take the middle seat in between two women. She walks in your direction, and sits down in the middle seat while her child clambers up to the seat beside you. You smile at the kid, and then quickly look away.

Two more stops. Or maybe it was three? It doesn't matter. The train comes to a stop at another station, and the child sees something that makes him jump off the seat and drag the lady out of the train with him. Maybe he saw his father, or a beloved relative? Perhaps it was a familiar landmark, or just an attractive toy. You want to turn around and look, but it's too late, the train is already pulling out of the station. Nevermind. You continue staring at your hands.

(Photo by trappedinreality @ Deviantart)

The train passes a few more stations. You see people come and go, walk past on their way to other carriages. You see a high school boy walk past and choose a seat in the next coach. He pulls out a sweater from his backpack, puts in on, and then takes out an almost dog-eared paperback novel. It looks vaguely familiar, that scribble on the back cover looking like an Agatha Cristie autograph from one of the books in your bookshelf at home. You suddenly feel envious of the boy, and also the man with the newspaper, because they can read on the train without feeling dizzy or sick.

Then again, if your eyes were focused on printed material all the time while on any kind of transport, you wouldn't have the chance to people-watch, you tell yourself.

Four more stops from your destination. At the next stop, the man in black gets off. He stands up, folds up his newspaper, picks up his bag and walks out when the train stops. You suddenly notice that the guy with the earphones has disappeared while you weren't looking.

An elderly lady takes a seat in the same row. There's nothing particularly outstanding about her. Average height, average clothes, average face. She could be anybody, and you wouldn't have a single clue.

Three more stops. The phone rings, and you answer the call, telling the caller you'll arrive in about 10 minutes. The rest of the journey you spend looking out the opposite window again, seeing buildings and trees go past, sometimes slowly, sometimes in a flash of green or grey.

Suddenly you hear the final station being announced. That's your cue to make sure your bags are all there, cash card safely in your pocket. The train slowly comes to a halt at the station, and you stand up, eager to get off the train and be home sweet home.

That's enough people-watching on a train ride for today, you think to yourself.

(Photo by devilsmile @ Deviantart)


Unknown said...

amazing perspective - a worthy point of view... :D

LauraLeia said...

Thank you. :) Got my inspiration from an LRT ride yesterday.

Shadows. said...

Mei Yin-lllyyy!! You're writing again!! Gods I've missed this. ^^ It's completely sublime, wonderful!

LauraLeia said...

Hahahaha, thanks Yee Ching-y! I know all my other posts are like super bimbo-ish talking about makeup and stuff LOL
Don't have much inspiration for these kinda writings these days. :(

Shadows. said...

Biombo-ish is fun! Means you're happy. ^^ These kind of writing usually happen in sombre moods, so yeah, perhaps I should hope to see less of these in the future? XD

LauraLeia said...

Doesn't necessarily have to be in a sombre mood to write these kinda things. Maybe 'reflective' would be a better word? :) What happened to your blog, Yee Ching-y? Give me the link again please; i lost all my bookmarks. T_T