Posts Tagged ‘Bat and Ball’

Day 107 – Strangers on a Train

I was looking at a book yesterday by Walker Evans of photos taken in the late 1930s on the subway in New York. He had a camera hidden in his jacket and sapped away at the people sitting across from him on the train. He then waited for 40 years to publish the book with those photos! Anyway I obviously must’ve been inspired by his influence as I took this photo today. Not of the ‘strangers’ faces, as my noisy Canon 50D isn’t quite as discreet as the little Leica that Walker had, but over the shoulder of one passenger with all of the others also looking away.

Well my photo certainly isn’t anything to write home about but looking at Walker Evans’ photos you get such a sense of how life back then is similar to life now. We still go through our daily routine, on trains, buses, planes, ferrys surrounded by the anonymous people that we barely pay head to, and that barely pay head to us. The photos show people so similar to a typical Sydney crowd in 2010, the same vacant, emotionless stare existing in that moment just to get from one point in life to another. So void of life that it almost brings it home to you how we squander living moments, and yet we never seek to change it. Yes, sometimes a train journey can be a great time out for us to read a book, do a crossword, think something through. But how many times have you stared out the window, willing the time to pass just until you get to where you were going?

There is rarely any interaction between strangers on a train. As a culture it is not typical and as a society we do nothing to change that status quo. A regular sight nowadays is people playing on video games, or games on their phones, would any train company ever think of putting a whiteboard in a carriage to facilitate an old-fashioned game of noughts and crosses?! How about the train journey from Sydney to Newcastle, giving rows 1 to 10 discounts at the food carriage if they complete the suduko as a team before the half-way point? Encouraging a team atmosphere and facilitating interaction between our human counterparts. I mean one of the biggest problems in the modern world is how alone the majority of us feel. Suicide is still a massive problem, particularly in Western civilisation. And of course it is, when we live in such an individual orientated world. Although we wake up with our partners, work with our workmates, exercise with our teammates, pray with our church groups, sing with our choirs, we don’t have the same people who share all our lives as we share theirs. As Elaine Paige sang “No one in your life is with you constantly, No one is completely on your side”

We do have different groups we engage in similar activities with, I guess in part to tell ourselves we aren’t alone, that we can feel a connection to a person or people and that can make us feel like we belong. So why can’t we do that in certain social situations like trains? Yes we are surrounded by strangers but so was almost everyone else we know before we knew them! We could be missing out on meeting a best friend, a partner, a perfect business associate, the one person who can say the right thing to change your life, all because its socially unacceptable to try and find anything in common with a complete stranger on a train. And you must have something in common, if you are both on the same train going towards the same place at the same time…coincidence?

When I used live in Surry Hills I caught the 372 bus and then a train into the city to work every morning, usually between 8.10 and 8.30 am depending on how difficult it was to get out of the bed that morning! If it was a later bus I would usually end up running from the train to my office building to try and get in before the boss! After a while I began to notice that this one woman regularly got on at the same stop as me, I often had to run for the later buses, and so did she. She got off at the train station as did most of the passengers and then got lost in the crowd. It was a good few weeks later before I saw her in my office building, the bus stop lady worked in the same building as me! What a coincidence! Over time we would often be waiting for the bus together or simultaneously getting splashed by cars as we sprinted along on a miserable July morning trying not to miss the 8.26 to Central. Did we ever say a word to each other? No. I wondered what her name was, whether she was married, she looked married, what company she worked with and what job title she had. I predicted a high powered job in a male dominated industry, she often looked stressed. One day she got on the bus carrying an x-ray envelope, I was sitting a few seats back and strained to try and see the name on the front, just out of curiosity! I wondered what she had potentially broken and stopped short of making up stories in my head of how it might have happened! The bus journey wasn’t that long, and once I got to work, or home to my housemates she was promptly forgotten, until the next time we met and didn’t speak. I wonder what she thought of me.

A few months later I changed jobs and saw her less, even later still changed houses and I haven’t seen her since. It’s not like I missed her, even though she was a constant reassuring presence in my morning routine, but I do wonder what kind of influence she would’ve had on my life had we ever struck up a conversation about the weather one morning. Would it eventually have progressed to discussing weekend plans, our various jobs, popping next door for afternoon tea (I mean for all I knew she could’ve very well lived next door!) or heading out to the Bat and Ball to have a beer and talk about life? Now I’ll never know and I wonder why she ever crossed my path at all! Anyway I hadn’t thought about her for a while so this ramble was an interesting trip down memory lane!

Quote of the day: “All war must be just the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity; strangers whom, in other circumstances, you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it” – Mark Twain

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Day 12 – A mixed bag!

Today was a funny day, it started off really well, a lovely sunny Friday heading into work with a fresh coffee, a packed lunch and the weekend to look forward to. And then it turned into one of those Fridays I absolutely hate! You know those kind where you’ve so much work you don’t even have time to look at your to-do-list and then that guilty panicky feeling descends and the doubts start to creep in that you are going to forget something vital that can’t possibly wait until next week, which you will probably get the sack over! 

To make matters worse I had to leave work early to rush to Kings Cross to the car rental place before it closed, almost didn’t make it because of a delayed train and had to endure the glower from an impatient booking lady who quite rightly didn’t want to be held back on a Friday of all days. Anyway got the car – praise the Lord! – but traffic was so bad I missed half of footie training. I eventually made it down only for the heavens to open up and a bunch of drunken cricket supporters passing through the Bat and Ball to ruin our game.

But not to be beaten, the day wasn’t over yet, myself and my housemate Una headed to the Erko for a feed, a Coca-Cola (my first in a week!), a comfy couch and philosophical discussion! Then headed home to prepare for tomorrow and to my surprise my dress for the awards night actually fits! Thank God I didn’t eat those last few chips!

“Into each life some rain must fall” – and it’s not a bad thing – bring on tomorrow!