Free eavesdropping

Photo by Wells Baum

Ignoring train conversations is impossible. Even the softest discussions can be heard just a few seats away.

Some people care less talking out loud about their business or personal issues.  Other folks are completely self-conscious.  Quite naturally, we listen more intently when we think there may be a secret.

Humans are curious about other each other’s lives, not just the lives of famous people.  Social media is just a broader train experience that opens up our worlds to the public.  We finally got what we all wanted:  celebrity status.

What we say online is a reflection of what we think about, care about, and what we’re doing with our lives.  Your social profile should be able to explain your identity.  The more transparent you are, the more credible you are.

We don’t need to eavesdrop or peek over shoulders anymore.  The noise is already there, free and open.  We should already all know each other.

Head Starts

There are two sides to a train. You’d think both side doors of the train would open at the same time but they frequently don’t. Some passengers get on before you and get seats.

Unfairness occurs in just about every aspect of our lives. The worst part is that you can’t control it.

Your luck actually starts when you’re born. Growing up rich or poor can predetermine your life’s outcome.

Luck runs the world. Your life is a guessing game, out of your control. But you can always catch up and create your own luck, a combination of accepting who you are and your situation and trying to make it better.

Some people get a head start in life. But the tortoise, persistent and with perspective, wins the race.

Tech Training

If you want to see the rate of technological adoption and get a sneak preview of the next big popular device or app to emerge, just ride the train.

The train is a good predictor of what’s hot now and what’s bubbling. Not surprisingly, what’s trending now is predominantly Apple and Android powered phone and tablet devices, with Facebook open at least 25% of the time. The majority of riders are generally consumed in social networking, gaming and email. Rarely is anyone reading a paper book; and when they do, it really stands out.

What’s forthcoming is the eradication of traditional computers and eReaders. MP3 players are already non-existent. Anything that can be consolidated within a smaller, more advanced touch device, will.

If people on the train never looked up, they certainly don’t anymore. Paying attention to surroundings and looking outside the windows is rare. Boredom is scarce. People are overly curious with what’s on their screens.

We are slowly becoming machines. Life feels automated, predicable and controlled despite a plethora of democratizing tools and social platforms that unleash creativity.

The train hints at merged digital and physical worlds, a state of constant connectedness. The only way to disconnect temporarily is when you have to get up and get off at your stop. Those are little moments of relief, a flashback to what was.

The London Underground

Below are some absolute gems on commuting.  

First, the etymology of “commute” Americanized: 

The word crossed over to use in a railway context in the US, where regular travellers began to swap day tickets for better-value season tickets; they “commuted” their daily tickets into season tickets. 

Second, the concept of commuting as a “third place” to get stuff done away from home and work.  

It was a new kind of time in the day: an interstitial mental space between home life and work.

And thirdly, the article explains how commuting via train is a mysteriously personal and more peaceful experience than any other commute:   

And that, perhaps is why people go quiet in the underground. It’s the only time we experience a combination of 21st-century technology (the trains), 19th-century technology and vision (the tunnels, the network) and our paleolithic deep self. A person on the underground is experiencing the rare chance to be a 21st-century Victorian caveman.

I’m working on a book right now that compares how riding the train predicts many of the everyday things we see in life.  Life is the insides of the train in slow motion.