Train truths: sociology of public transport

I’ve been catching public transport most of my life. For the last five years it’s been a daily train experience. And an experience it is. It’s a microcosm of society stuffed into a small space. Forced proximity. Survival of the fittest at its best.

Most people don’t like public transport. I do. As a curious observer I’m always analysing and interpreting. Here’s something we can all learn from it, some simple train truths you can use everywhere. Because life is a journey.

1. Don’t shock, please.
It’s a fine line but it seems to be the core to modesty. Men will look. So will women. That’s human nature. Unless someone has been taught not to look, it’s the natural reaction. I’m not a fan of the response ‘so they shouldn’t look’. That’s what they should change. What about you? The responsibility is on both sides. So the question you need to ask yourself is “if they look, what do they see?” And modesty really comes down to who you are. Do you act/dress to shock or to please? Are you attracting attention or attractive?

I’ve been complimented on my ‘style’ a few times by random people on public transport. They notice me but not because what I wear screams at them. Those that scream through their dress and behaviour also get noticed but it’s always in the negative. It always comes with exchanges of disapproval, and that’s not from the ‘conservative older crowd’. Attention seeking isn’t attractive. Be attractive.

2. You’re a ripple and the wind.
The most amazing thing happens on public transport. An ecosystem is created. It’s quick and unnoticeable to the untrained eye, but in close proximity people become one mass. And then? Then, like the ripples of the sea we affect one another. I love testing this out and seeing this happen. You give someone a seat, so someone else does too at the next stop. Or you smile, and then the next person smiles to someone else. It can go on and on throughout the train.

We affect each other. If we’re conscious of it, we can stop being a ripple for the negative and be a conduit for the positive. More importantly, we can be the trigger, the wind. Give someone a compliment, a smile, a seat, a right of way. Be a positive ripple, but more importantly, be a positive wind. Cause positivity and change someone’s day.

3. It’s not all about you.
You often see this on the way home from work. Someone’s just had a horrible day. It’s written all over their face and body language. They are the annoying pushy person. They’ve just had enough and don’t care who is in the way. Guess what! Get out of the way! I can’t work out why people get offended by this. We all have bad days. We all struggle sometimes. Just let the person go first, even if they weren’t ‘meant to’. It’s not all about you. They’re not pushing in because they don’t like you. Just let it go and let it be about them.

4. Timing is everything.
The only thing we really have of value is time. In the Western world we’re so scared of wasting time that we over schedule, over do and eventually lose perspective. We need to know when to run, when to stop and when to get off. Catching public transport is the most perfect metaphor for this. Timing is everything! You learn exactly when to start running, when it’s too late, exactly how fast to walk, and all the other cues. Life is the same. It’s about being conscious. Sometimes we have to put the excelerator on and sometimes we just have to wait for the next train. And sometimes you weren’t late, the train was early. You learn that not everything is in your hands and sometimes missing the train is the best thing that could have happened. Maybe you met someone you haven’t seen for a long time or that first train derailed. Who knows. At the end of the day we have to do our bit, and the rest we must be grateful for.

Happy journeying!



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Nonna says:

    My little wise philosopher, how did you become so wise? I am completely overwhelmed with pride and deep admiration for your ability to notice, analyse and describe things in the most logical and creative way. You could’ve easily got PhD in philosophy.

  2. Zane Axten says:

    I love the section about being a positive ripple; it has made me think to be more aware in situations like this, and to use this awareness to create positivity!

    1. Baal Teshuva says:

      That’s awesome! Good luck with it! It’s not always easy early in the morning but very worthwhile.

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