We all have those long commutes. Whether it’s catching the public transport to work, school or on a holiday. At least on a holiday, you have things to distract you….unless you’re on a plane. So here’s how you can deal with the travelling blues.
There is nothing better than unwinding to a good book on a long journey. Especially with a kindle and the e-book market, you can take an entire library with you. But in all honesty… I don’t know. I don’t think there is anything better than an actual book. The feel of the creasing spine, the dog ears on the edges, the crisp sound of the paper when you turn it over and the amazing smell of a book, new or used… well there is nothing like it. Sure, you’re probably thinking “Sure, Nige. I agree. But think about the weight!” Well tell me, when was the last time you took a book and read it over and over again? Most people (myself included on the more heavier topics) tend to read only once. And that’s why I love going to Op Shops to find a good book to read and then leave it at my next destination.
Humans are a crazy species. You can see all the various kinds of people that make up this race on any given public transport system. From the bustling school kids where I’ve lost count of the number of “likes” they’ve used in a sentence, to the college students discussing their latest night out, to the ambitious career driven woman who is always on her bluetooth connected blackberry, to the father trying to juggle coordinating picking up his kids, to the pensioner with his walking cane, smiling blissfully at the life that goes past. When was the last time you stopped and looked. Yes, admittedly this is harder on a plane or a bus…but there is also nothing better than creating the opposite conversations from that obnoxious traveller who speaks too loud. You could imagine an entire back story to the people sharing your journey and create virtual lives for each of them. Alternatively, you could figure out where they are from based on their accents, or their clothing or depending on what they have on them, where they are heading.
The other interesting thing I’ve done recently is experiment with work’s flexible hours. One thing’s for sure. If you’ve only ever travelled on a peak hour service, then you have no idea what you’re missing out when getting the early bird travel. For those that don’t know, in Melbourne, if you reach your destination before 7am on weekdays, you get to travel for free. Depending on where you live, that could mean you need to get up at 5am! Yet, when I did try it, I found myself to be more productive, more focused, less distracted (possibly because there were less people to interrupt me) and ALWAYS got a seat on the train. Plus the people on the train… well, it seems like they all have their own allocated seating. Don’t ask me how it works, it just does. Everyone on the carriage has their “spot”. People never sit in another person’s spot. Unless there is this universal sign…like look around at your fellow passengers with a questioning but silent look. And one of them returns a silent shrug or a shake of the head and that gave you permission. Permission to sit in that person’s “spot”. Plus, everyone knew everyone. Sure, not a word was spoken but when you got on, and you made eye contact, you did the nod. And they’d return the nod. I named every passenger on my train Bob. Guess I’ve watched to much Fight Club. And on a peak hour commute, everyone has the white headphones or black ones or the new massive beats audio gigantic “leave me alone, I don’t want to talk to you” headphones…. whereas on the early bird, you’d be lucky to find ONE person per compartment. Such a massive difference. Plus, if someone does knock into you, they not only apologise, but they wait. Make sure they’ve made eye contact with you, apologise and move on, only when you’ve forgiven them. Somehow, that made their apology seem that much more sincere. I’m sure there are other things I’m missing, but these definitely stood out. And all it took was a little time difference.
When was the last time that you took a moment to figure out something new on a tired old journey that you’ve taken, many times before? My phone battery was dying as I forgot to charge it overnight and I had no music to listen to. I left my book at home because I had to transport the work I brought home back into the office. My little sketch pad was buried at the bottom of my bag and the train I was travelling to work on, was already packed beyond belief and I was the last person to get a seat. A part of me felt lost. I felt like I had nothing to do. But in that same moment, I chose to think of doing something else. What could I find out from my surroundings. And near the tracks, close to a creek bed, there were grey and white strands moving in the grass. Rabbit ears. And they were sitting up in attention as the train rolled past. They were all around the tracks near the river. And they hopped along on their merry way, some watching us as we go past. Their little breaths in the cold morning air, leaving little comic book styled thought bubbles. 12 years I’ve been on that same train line. 12 years. And not once have I noticed these rabbits. Sometimes I wonder whether all the technology of today is seriously decreasing our attention span, whilst indulgently feeding our ever increasing lust for instant gratification. Rabbits. Who knew…
I love carrying around a little notepad. Often I draw random rubbish. You see. I’ve always wanted to be a comic book artist but the one thing that would hold me back is a person’s hands. For the life of me, I could not draw hands. Even if my life depended on it, I wouldn’t be able to do it. With the long commutes, I now tend to rekindle this love and figure out how best to draw hands anatomically correct. Admittedly, it does look silly to any passenger when they see you keep staring at one hand and drawing with another, with your tongue sticking out and a look of focused intensity as if you were handling some sort of dangerous chemical! The book also serves to capture my random thoughts. Yes, I know there is Evernote, but sometimes I do like the feeling of holding something tangible in my hands. Besides, the only thing stopping a notebook from working is a pen. Plus, small screens, and electricity… people have done well without these things in the past (and yes, they also weigh a bit) and I’m not about to try and change it up just for the hell of having the latest tablet gizmo. (Although I secretly really want one….but can never justify the want well enough. Damn me and my logical ways of looking at things!)
Now over to you. What do you do to while away your time? Of course… when all else fails… there is always the good old fashioned fall back option. Sleep. And we could all use with a little more shut eye in today’s world.