Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Terror of Trains

The wretched metal structure/The magical golden carpet
 Trains are terrifying. Not because I have an irrational fear of things that move, but because various aspects of train travel are just not as pleasant as you’d expect. You’d think getting a train would just involve walking through a door, sitting down, and then waiting until the wretched metal structure ambled its way to your destination before you walk off again. But it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. Ever.

You arrive at the station, to be confronted with the ticket scanning entry machines (they probably have a technical term but looking it up on Wikipedia seems pointless and futile) which begin the long row of trivial train travel problems. When your ticket scans correctly, it’s fine. You feel like a Jedi using the force, commanding the doors to open in front of you. But when the ticket doesn’t scan, you walk forwards, assuming that there will be empty air, but instead you slam straight into the doors, stopping the forward motion of every other irate commuter. You’re the village idiot, and everyone is laughing.

Standing on the platform isn’t particularly enjoyable either. You stand there, pretending to text someone on your phone so you have something to do other than gawp pointlessly at the air to try and count the atoms, while the announcer babbles on about various train times in a voice whose pitch varies like a teenage boy experiencing puberty. You stare into the abyss, where your golden carpet should be, ready to whisk you away to a magical, less depressing, place, but all you see is another line up of people on the other side of the abyss, staring straight back at you like a mirror, contemplating why they’re not just sitting in a car.

When you get onto the train and it starts moving, the problems don’t stop. As you stare profoundly out the window, as if you’re in a philosophical documentary about trains, the world seems peaceful, as it whizzes past. All you can hear is the low level hum of the train zipping along the track, making the whole experience peaceful and tranquil. But then, out of nowhere, another expeditious chunk of metal bursts into existence, thundering along the track, screaming its deafening racket, before quickly vanishing, leaving just a distant memory. Except the sheer terror that overcomes you for a split second. It’s like being given the Heimlich manoeuvre unexpectedly by a total stranger on the street. It’s terrifying.

Of course, there are many more aspects of train travel that infuriate me so much I’d like to rip out the eyeballs of the next commuter who says they enjoy train travel, but I can’t remember what I was going to write about them. You could say I’ve lost my train of thought.

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