I know that I am not suffering the monotony of using the same transport everyday. Within the two or three weeks I spend in a city the ordinariness of using transport still escapes me. In some ways it is amazing to be flabbergasted and interested in what local people do everyday without thinking about it. However, I can’t help but wonder if there is a different beauty, which I can’t capture, in having urban transport as the background of your life rather than the focus (as is the case for me).
With this in mind, I set my alarm for an hour well before sunrise to accompany my friend and see the world of his everyday commute. Being forced to witness this time of day always gives me a thrill, but I must try and imagine how this thrill would wear off if this happened everyday. Well, it was misty and dark and then we passed a good looking zombie wearing sunglasses and listening to music. As we walked to the metro my friend started to talk about the things he notices on his commute. He passes the same girl everyday and can gauge whether he’s running late by where he meets her – she has become a clock to him – but one with a face and thoughts that one can only imagine (because one never talks to the people they see everyday). We cross the road this way and that and I try not to take too many photos even though the light is beautiful. We run across the main road as the green man is flashing and the sound for deaf pedestrians, which reminds me of a futuristic battle, makes the run that little bit more fun.
Then we go down into the world of the metro. In Madrid, this is a world with limited signal for phones (from my own experience) and hence the people who are awake enough to read, are reading books. I’ve noticed an abundance of book shops in this city and I think the metro is doing a good job at keeping book sales up. I love watching everyone focused on their own little worlds swaying together with the movement of the metro. It is a great display of collective individuality (unless everyone is reading the same book I guess). Between my attempts to secretly film the feel of the metro and chatting to my friend, we arrive at our stop in no time at all. We were standing the whole time but it wasn’t a strain. If we were trying to read I guess it would be a different story.
As we re-enter the world of natural light and traffic sounds, we head for the bus queue. In Sydney I would always see these queues and feel sorry for the people in them. Perhaps because it is a queue with no apparent door or window, like when we would have to queue up at school in arbitrary places for arbitrary reasons. But the queue wasn’t so bad. We were placed well – we didn’t have to wait too long and we would get a seat (provided no pregnant or older people needed it). My friend gave me a bit of a guided tour as we went along, he described where the sunrise can be beautiful (if it’s not a foggy day) and where the bus sometimes jolts all the standing passengers as it picks up speed around the corner. Today we were lucky because we had one of the good bus drivers – not the one that intentionally throws the bus from side to side (maybe he wanted to work on a theme park ride but his parents forced him to settle for the more stable career of being bus driver).
We get off at the stop before my friend’s work. This is the better stop because he can see the mountains on a fine day. It doesn’t matter that there is a big highway in his foreground, the beauty of his walk is found in the background. I enjoyed hanging out with my friend and gaining insights into his transport world that I think an interview would have only given me a small taste of. I guess my observation and presence changed his commute though – maybe this is why I gave up on physics.