Travelling out to my next starting point

8. Mai 2016 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar


Apart from the more personal encounters on my trips, I must be looking at thousands of passers-by and unwitting travel companions. I can’t help noticing things, catching fleeting moments of human life and dying. I always go away with questions and hypotheses, never seeking definite answers. 

  • The woman getting on the Eurocity train to Milan in Zurich, black hair in tresses and bangles, skinny-thin figure, naked ankles above colourful trainers, black leather jacket – so far you’ll think she can’t be more than 30 -, but her face a horrific killing field of overlaid beauty surgery, bloated lips and cheeks, eyelids as if sculpted with play dough by an incompetent toddler, crazy eyes too vain to put up with glasses, straining to read the seat number on her reservation. Waht has happened here? How old might she be? Before I get to see her hands I’d say anything between 50 and 80. What does she know (and admit) about the numerous failed operations? Maybe she doesn’t even see them as failed, because if she did, she wouldn’t leave the dark of her bedroom. I am gripped by a mixture of pity and disgust. 
  • The Italian train conductor comes just before Milan, when I have already packed up everything plus my ticket. Anyway, I’m fascinated by the two wispy strandlets of hair dangling in front of his ears. I wonder: could it be the chosen method of a modern Jewish man to discreetly show his cultural and religious allegiance without drawing undue attention to himself? Is it a new hairstyle fad, to follow the unspeakable do’s with brilliantined waves on the top and shaves at the side? I try to sneak a closer look: the strands have been turned, almost tressed, and they’re exactly symmetrical. But the young man doesn’t look Jewish to me, yet what do I know (and what prejudices to I bring to bear on this situation)? I’m close to deciding that what I’ve spotted are just loose threads dangling from his worn-looking cap. But who am I to decide? And why should I? So the question stays with me for the ride. 
  • Or rather, until the next one begins to bug me, namely what the Italian or Swiss Italian business man is talking about on his smartphone. In fact I only see his left hand playing with the unused earphone, acting out a reduced game of gesturing because his fingers are tied to the cable, and on seeing his grey and blue striped socks I start to wonder if someone laid them out for him, someone who didn’t consider that he was going to wear his black shoes with sensible soles. Anyway I guess from his tone and his laughs that he is talking to a female colleague, just the right mix of banter and business, with the occasional allusion to universities and acronyms like ROI (return on investment) – or did he say ROE, spelled out as Return on Environment? And why is all the world using this drawn out falling-rising OKAYYYYY (here in the stream of an Italian dialogue)? He sends animated wishes for a good weekend over the line, and then they keep talking for another 15 minutes. He’s noted a few things down in red ink, not on a pad, but in a hard-cover notebook, perhaps a Moleskine. Whatever for? 
  • Later, on the Genova train, two identical-looking dark blonde girls in their very early twenties, studying their economics text books, one highlighting the title of a paper, „managing strategy risk“, the other, who looks like a child, engrossed in „limits to growth, a 30-year update. She certainly wasn’t born when the pundits warned against the west’s excessive ideology of growth at any cost, 30 years have passed with hardly enough breath taken to think. The two are travelling first class, perhaps daughters of some Lombard business fathers, who in turn may be sons of the founders of the factories which I saw standing as crumbling ruins, steel skeletons stripped of their plastic façades, as we entered Milan. On the other hand, they might travel on discounted student tickets bought months ago at cut-price. After every paragraph of reading, the display of the smartphone gets checked,but neither of them is listening to music. 
  • The final question I don’t want to pursue too long is: who farted on the Milan train, the business man, the English couple, or the distinguished-looking elderly lady?  

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