Trainspotting

Story By: Bella Bella

It can be easy to lose touch when no one on public transport makes eye contact. Read how Bella broke out of the ranks of the 'Homo Transportus' and learned the importance of a smile.

Girl looking at train timetable
when finding a smile in a train-full of people becomes akin to searching for a man in a roomful of One Direction fans

There’s a new group of people emerging from the ashes of physical transportation – a group that is known for their dead-pan expression and seat-selecting rituals. More frightening to approach than my mother chasing a cockroach, this group is robotic, uncaring and relentless. Yet frighteningly enough, they integrate into society so well that nobody has noticed their existence.

Who are they?

I like to call them Homo Transportus. Every week on the train, I glance sneakily from my magazine, and observe them in their natural environment. Homo Transportus’ default facial expression is one of utmost boredom or detachment, and Homo Transportus’ speech patterns have rarely been noted; conversation seems to be non-existent when travelling with them. Typical Homo Transportus behavior includes dabbling continuously on sleek, black iPods, or indifferently gazing out windows to the graffiti-ed train tunnels beyond.

Most importantly, members of Homo Transportus avoid eye-contact, smiling or general mingling at all costs.

To my horror, after years of taking public transport, I have found myself becoming more and more detached to people around me – exhibiting clear Homo Transportus tendencies! Spending hours a week in a metal box with fellow humans from the same species (I double-checked); you would think our paths are bound to cross. But there is something very wrong when finding a smile in a train-full of people becomes akin to searching for a man in a roomful of One Direction fans. Is it so difficult these days to find a smile somewhere within ourselves? Have we become so closed off that we miss opportunities to connect with each other?

Something different

A few days ago I stepped over the gap between the platform and the land of Homo Transportus, donned my earphones and settled in for an uneventful train trip.

Then an elderly man with kind, crinkled eyes took the available seat next to mine. He sent a benevolent smile my way and engaged me in conversation. The Homo Transportus part of me was outraged – how dare he barge into my boredom! - but another part was strangely curious.

We were not exactly the best-matched kindred spirits - he enthusiastically talked about his small grandchildren, I hesitantly brought up the stresses of university. However despite our differences, it was liberating to be able to share experiences, thoughts and life with someone who has a different perspective. "As long as you find somebody to share your life with - friend, relative or partner - you don't need much else," he said. "What material thing could possibly be better than having a person there with you every step of the way?"

When he arrived at his station, he said farewell the old-fashioned way - a hand shake and tip of his hat. I was quite sad to see him go. But he gave me a glimmer of hope that perhaps Homo Transportus may be, after all, just made-up.

So, I guess the moral of the story is not to be be scared to give someone a smile and a conversation next time you’re bored on the train! You might just make their day.
Last reviewed: 21 April, 2015
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