The joys of public transportation

19 10 2010

So let’s stay with trains for a moment.

I travel a lot on public transportation here in Switzerland – it’s the politically correct thing to do. You know, when in Switzerland, try to be as Swiss as you can. The commuter rail line I use takes me from the southern suburbs where I live, clear through the city to the airport in the northeast, where I work. On a good day the journey takes about 45 minutes one way. It saves me a lot of hassle on the roads and I don’t pollute the atmosphere.

Even though public transport is a way of life around here, it’s amazing how many people think they can get from A to B faster in their cars. Ha!  Though the city is far from being a really major metropolitan area, its traffic sometimes, incredibly, is.

All these people need to get somewhere really fast.

But the public I have to share public transport with for an hour and a half every day often sends me into a rage. Call me elitist, but when I am forced into a small space with, well, everyone else, I get the heebie-jeebies and I just want them all to stay the hell away from me.

The mornings are usually okay, the mix of commuters – accidentally thrown together anew every day – either doze off, quietly read or just stare out the window and contemplate what a sorry bunch of conventional desk jockeys we all are. The afternoons, however, when everyone is on their way home and celebrating their freedom, are sheer torture.

The other day, at the peak of evening rush hour, I took a free seat that happened to be next to an individual whose voice turned out to be the difference between my minor headache and a full-blown migraine.

It was a voice that just…grates. This type of voice usually belongs to a young woman between 16 and 25 years old with bleached blonde (or dyed black) hair and too much makeup, and dressed from head to toe in S&M H&M. A kind of 21st-century-material-girl-wannabe. She has a Smartphone of some sort surgically attached to her ear. Into it, and for the enjoyment of the entire train car, she describes every detail of her day, her sex life and her plans for the weekend in a volume many decibels higher than necessary. In Swiss German. The IQ of the monologue often does not clear double digits.

Some commuters wisely isolate themselves with I-pods, while the I-pod-less like me just cringe and wail inwardly. When you think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does – as this person’s even eviler twin takes a seat diagonally opposite from you, and you have to bear this senseless blather in stereo. What a waste of good oxygen.

Some folks SHOULD just go play on train tracks.

Of course there is a whole bunch of other riff-raff using public transport as well… for example the marauding wolf-packs of young men, primed with testosterone and cheap no-name liquor, who specialize in random acts of violence. Or the anti-authoritarian, neo-hippie parents who encourage their ADHD kids to run up and down the aisle of the moving train while screaming at the top of their lungs. (One can only hope the lesson – which will inevitably be learned – is learned without too much blood splattering on one’s clothes.)

Now… the train company can’t really do anything about its clientele, except try to deliver us normal people to our destinations safe and in a timely fashion. And I’m sure they are doing their best. But there are days when I know just can’t face the crowds and the noise so I end up fighting road traffic after all. In the comfort of my luxury smart car.

So much for trying to be Swiss and trying to save the planet.

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