Proximity

I started a new job this week.

One of the things this means for my life is that I now must regularly travel to the office.

One of the things this means for my life is partaking in public transport during rush hour. Namely the local Metro system.

The first day this went remarkably smoothly. The local Metro system has something of a reputation, which mainly centres around its perpetual struggle with low rail adhesion, so to arrive on schedule was something of a miracle.

The second day, it did not go smoothly.

On the way in, this was a simple not running according to timetable situation which led to me being twenty minutes later than intended, but still on time.

On the way home, however, an exciting ‘police incident’ in the station brought all trains to a standstill, and we all got to listen to the voice over the tannoy sternly address a misbehaving passenger and repeatedly threaten them with arrest. Unfortunately, this was resolved magically without providing any closure for us poor bystanders, and we were left to await our transportation with no further entertainment.

When my train, after having been overtaken by multiple other trains and comedically appearing to get further away on the station information, finally arrived over half an hour later, there were a lot of people waiting for it. Approximately three times the amount there normally would be. This was to be replicated at a number of stations further along the line.

I am quite unusual in that I fucking love a crowded space. I love being squished up against strangers in a serendipitous manner. I love the enforced and bizarre intimacy of it. So, while it was not in accordance with COVID-related recommendations, I was thrilled to be part of the disgruntled wave of people that swept into the train car and spilled into every cranny with a reserved British disquiet.

I think an important thing I like about these situations is that there is a collective decision not to talk to each other, because it would take the enforced and bizarre intimacy into more uncomfortable territory. So I get to indulge in the energetic presence of all these people, without any distracting expectations. I get to sense them, and imagine I can feel who they are. I get to connect with something of them; a part of them that it’s not worth trying to articulate. I find that enriching. I find it more enriching than talking to people in most instances. For a person who likes words so much, I think I could very happily never talk to anyone again, as long as they didn’t talk to me either, and instead we just enjoyed the space around each other. The space between. Oh, that space between.

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