Tuesday 18 June 2019

Joy of observing people on a busy train

The Way I See It - Fr Michael Commane

Irish trains and buses are extremely busy these days.

And certainly all trains out of Dublin Heuston Station any time after 11.00 on Fridays are extremely busy, in other words filled to the gills.

I travelled on a Dublin Cork train after 11.00 on a Friday. No specifics, as under no circumstances dare I identify any of the protagonists in this story.

The coach is full, bums on every seat.

I'm sitting in one of those four-seaters, two seats on either side of a table.

I'm lucky to get a seat as I arrive approximately 10 minutes before departure and have to fold and load my fold-up bicycle.

Train leaves on time, indeed, it keeps to the timetable with meticulous punctuality. Most impressive.

Somewhere between Heuston and Inchicore the man sitting diagonally across from me is shouting down his phone asking the person with whom he is talking if he can hear him. He explains that he is on a train to Cork and that we are going under a number of bridges so maybe that's why they can't hear each other. Whatever about his phone partner, all the rest of us in the coach hear the nonsense he's talking. Eventually he allows good sense to prevail and puts his phone away.

Sitting opposite me is a young woman. Somewhere near 'The Hatch' she begins to remove her makeup gear from her bag.

It's interesting how railway personnel have their own names for places. No self-respecting Irish Rail staff member would dare call it Hazelhatch. So too with Ballybrophy, in railway parlance it's 'Bally'.

My neighbour begins the task of placing all her makeup material on our dividing table. Carefully she places her false eyelashes on the table.

Between 'The Hatch' and close to Limerick Junction she spends the one hour 18 minutes working on her makeup and inserting her eyelashes. It was all a revelation for me. But what fascinated me was that I did not notice any improvement in the woman's appearance. She looked just the same at Limerick Junction as she did at 'The Hatch'. For the entire 127-minute journey between Dublin and Mallow there is not a word spoken between the four of us. At Limerick Junction I was going to point out that the new platform being built is almost reaching completion but I decide to say nothing.

The woman beside me, probably in her late 70s, is busy with her tablet, digital version. I take a peek and discover that she is spending most of the journey playing patience. She's irritating me as she insists on hogging the armrest, which both of us are sharing. Any time she vacates the space I place my elbow at the edge of the armrest, but she wins the cat-and-mouse game.

I change trains at Mallow for my Kerry connection. Sitting in front of me a group of young women are sharing a bottle of sparkling wine. I notice they leave their wine glasses on the train on detraining in Killarney.

My train arrive on time in Tralee.

US novelist, Donna Tartt always carries a notebook with her when travelling.

'As a writer, I think I'm more an eye than an ear - the world comes mainly in for me at the eye,' she says.

There's so much to see right in front of our eyes. It's a real gift to appreciate the now, the magic of the world about us.

And no better place to see it than on a busy InterCity train.

Fingal Independent