I love trains.
The speed as we sweep through the countryside.
The views through huge windows.
The tannoy announcements that prepare you for arriving safely at your destination station.
The train taking the strain (remember that slogan?)
I hate trains.
The jostling on the platform.
The rush to find an available seat.
The students babbling.
The bags bashing off your shoulders as other passengers bustle past.
The scrum to get to the exit doors as the train lurches into the station.
The rush to get to the stairs or escalators first.
The conveyor belt of drudgery.
So why love and hate in equal measure?
I love to use trains, and other forms of public transport, for leisure. It’s relaxing, punctual (usually), comfy, and contributes to the overall experience. There is fun and excitement in planning the journey, climbing on board, taking in the sights without having to concentrate on anything else, having a wee doze on a longer journey, reading or checking the news on my mobile phone.
When using the same mode of transport for commuting, however, the story is so different. It’s a function, where a delay of just a few minutes raises the pulse rate. It’s purely an A-to-B process to be endured rather than enjoyed. Everybody is engrossed on their phone screens, or listening to noise (I can’t confirm it’s music) on their headphones. Soulless, impersonal start and finish to the working day.
For years, I was a solitary passenger among a horde of other lonely souls. I put my headphones on, listened to Absolute 80s radio station and stared at the screen on my phone.
I have changed how I commute to work. Not the mode of transport, just the way I use it. I now catch a slightly earlier train to meet up with my brother-in-law. I’ve known him for over forty years, so we have plenty of reminiscing to keep us entertained, as well as discussing the events of the day.
If we don’t meet up, for whatever reason, I opt for the ‘tourist’ strategy, where I take time just to look at the world whizzing by or drift into a daydream. Pretending not to be commuting changes the whole context of the journey.
Think of the big events in your life as journeys. You may move house, change your career, experience a bereavement, celebrate a big birthday, get married, have children, buy a new car, go on holiday, own a pet…….
All these events can be stressful and/or enjoyable. Whether they are a positive or negative experience, add value to your wellbeing or drain your energy, make you happy or not may be more down to your perception and expectations than the events themselves.
Next time there is a big moment in your life, treat it as if it is the Orient Express rather than the 7.16am East Grinstead to London Bridge.