N exercise 2.6 – a train ride
The cabin’s lit with flat white light, day and night. It reflects back at the passengers from the black and empty windows, big picture windows for taking in the landscape when there’s landscape to take in. The train car sways back and forth, rhymthic clacking of the tracks beneath, gently lulling the exhausted patrons into a hypnotic stupor as they skim editorials, pencil in sudokus, post comments on Insta. Another train, a duplicate, rushes past in the opposite direction, impossibly close, so close that it practically scratches the paint of the side of the train. It’s here and then gone in a bewildering rush of speed, a furious corridor of power, here, then not. Each cabin is just like this one, with emergency exits laid out in the right spaces, equidistant from one another – the cabin’s unique number in a simple, sans serif font, big black letters above the doors at the front and back. Yellow emergency stripping just above eye-level at each seat. The passengers face one another in two by twos, each seat part of a quad, two facing two, and though some have elevated their bags and possessions to the level of passengers and occupied seats, most are understanding enough to push their things under their seats, crammed up in the foot well with the socks, leather, and rubber.
The train’s synthetic voice speaks the names of the stops, struggling with the pronunciations of some, and that struggle is preserved in the recording that plays every time, every run of this long train, one of many in a sprawling network of commuter transit in this most densely-populated region of the country. The pale interior of each car is a far cry from the posh appointments of a Victorian-era carriage but of course it’s much more affordable for people these days than ever it was. And no coal since these beauties, all white and cream and branded green, are all electric. Roads across the region are blocked to permit the train to run unchallenged.