I travel frequently in and out of the city on the train. The panic the average commuter exudes every time they embark or get off the train is astonishing. The nervous energy of them all could be harnessed for something much more useful and powerful. What’s frightening is that I am beginning to absorb the panic. Let me explain.
About 15 people were at the station platform the other morning, just outside the city. The sun was shining, warming my shirt as it touched my skin in the breeze. Lawyers, brokers and corporate suits with Ipads and Kindles instead of briefcases and books speckled the platform. These guys keep our city moving, they are our brightest and best. Stony faced, no smiles, stiff collars and not a nod of good morning or acknowledgement as they shuffle past to find their favourite spot on the platform. Too busy and important for any of that, boardroom decisions to think about and Donald Trump’s E-Book to read (this is not the obvious choice you may think, i’ve peered over frosty shoulders and counted 5 Donald Trump books in the past two months.)
Then. The faint grumble of the train approaching. Everyone looks down the track in one synchronised motion, like meerkats alert and ready. They can’t see the train but they know its coming and they start to “get ready”. This means shuffling to the edge of the platform, sizing up where they think the door will stop. They must get the perfect spot and be right there, nose to the door the moment it stops. Not doing this and being at the back of the queue or having to dart a few metres to the left or right to get on will cause extra panic, torment and terror; they may not get on and have to wait 3 precious, aching minutes for the next one. This will not do. A day cannot be ruined. They must get on.
Now I have never seen anyone who is stood waiting for the train NOT get on it. Everyone has always made it. People running late for a train, yes they maybe unlucky. But waiting on that platform, stiff as a board, eager and ready, they have always got on.
Train stops. Doors open. Feels like an eternity while we all wait for the doors to beep and slowly slide open. Must get nearer, right near and there is a surge for the door. This is an important step. You simply cannot give an inch here, particularly not to let rambunctious schoolboys off the train and get to school. They must learn. They must squeeze through the corporate panickers like a cork in a bottle and burst out the other end to fresh air and freedom.
This is when the panic is palpable. Must get on! Only a few seconds! Push, shove, but not look. Don’t ever look at anyone, you may catch their eye and see their panic too. This will distract you. Just focus on getting on and getting on first. It’s up to them if they don’t make it.
The whistle blows and they all relax. For four short minutes until the train starts pulling into the next stop, and they all wind up again and edge for the door while the train is still in the tunnel. I watch this almost daily and think this;
“If there was a bomb, a crash or any other kind of tragic nightmarish incident there would be no hero. No 60minutes interview of bravery. These fuckers would trample me in half a heartbeat. No question.”