Last week, on my way home, I actually took a seat on the train. I was ill equipped to occupy myself in a useful way as usual, so I just sat and stared at random patterns and adverts.
About two stops into my journey, a man in his thirties or so got on. He had in-ear buds plugged in and tinny beats emanating from his head to the rest of the passengers. I suddenly realised that all the men in my section of the carriage, bar one, had their ears stopped up with various portable speakers. There were two other sets of nondescript ear buds. One young crisply suited male had a spotless almost glowing Beats by Dr. Dre halo clamping down on his ears. Another two had black-coloured headphones in a similar but less trendy style (the kind that could double up as ear-muffs). Another man slouched against one of the high seats at the end of the carriage, his head drooping as he dipped in and out of a fitful snooze.
My mind quickly referenced an article I had read recently about athletes training and psyching themselves up to motivational music. I wondered what these guys were getting ready for. The music did not seem generally to be of the kind that helps you to relax judging by the sounds from some of the headphones and the bouncing chins of the other wearers whose music I could not hear. (Notable exception could be the guy who was semi-conscious.)
(I must say I wouldn’t mind having one of these Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones for every Tube journey. I stepped foot in a Bose shop for the first time a couple of weeks ago out of curiosity, and recommend that anyone that has not tried these does so for the pure amazement value. Once you have experienced them, the attached price tag will no longer surprise you. I can imagine if I had a pair, every Tube journey in future would be like an out-of-body experience!)
That day’s observation did bring to mind the fact that there is a different story behind each person with whom I rub shoulders, literally or metaphorically, on my daily commute. We may all wear a similar uniform. We may even enjoy similar tastes in music. Each of us probably sports a familiar blank look as we meander home by various means. But we each go back to a different place and life can be very very different behind each door that we severally close behind us at the end of that journey.
For some, on the other side of the door is a refuge from the world. For others, to open that door is to leave a refuge behind for the night. For still others, the door opens a gaping hole of emptiness which envelops that person until he emerges again the next day. Then there are those we do not realise have no doors to journey to and live a expertly fabricated deception that we so readily believe. We can live so closely alongside one another, and yet, we can be such solitary souls.
I have no deep insights to offer on this trailing thought. I’ll try to remember to make lemonade and share it around while I know how. I am just glad that behind my closed door, I can open up this world here from time to time, and see your smiling and encouraging faces.