Whilst walking through St. Pancras station, the feeling is overwhelming and submerging that nobody actually gives a shit about your presence there. When businessmen in grey fitted suits, and slightly too pointy black shoes slalom in between the students and day to day commuters. When the executive powerful women tap down the stairs in five inch whopping great heels, executed with such grace and confidence, effortlessly gliding to their next tube. When the busker plays his best sax tunes to the flood of scrambling passengers, vacating one train for their next.
In this desolate landscape of such a social span, headphones are a source of anonymity, casting a harsh iron wall between those bearing the unapproachable musical tools and the rest of the world. People don’t want to be there. They’re in a rush. And they definitely don’t want to get to know you better. You have nothing to say that would take preference over their music.
I’m not some freak who sits with one earphone out, hoping the next unlucky character to sit in the inviting empty seat beside me will want a chat, honest. But the feeling of a space where nobody actually knows you’re there. You can be in the busiest street, station, shop, but if not one soul acknowledges you, are you even there?
The man with a wonky bobble hat, smelling of the hard working day makes an awkward eye at you. A person sat adjacent, whose gender remains a mystery, pulls their hood further round their face, turning their iPod up even louder. The woman reading her Kindle, (undoubtedly 50 Shades of Grey from the look on her face and her lip-biting).
And these people all lead lives. They all have a job (well, I assume) or something they do. They all have a family, who then has a family, who then has a family. And they will all go home tonight, to their comfy little lives, giving you no thought. Let’s be honest, their uneventful tube journey wasn’t made eventful by my presence.
I won’t see a majority of these people again, unless it’s whilst we return to our confined commuting. I won’t be able to thank that guy who offered me his seat, nor the man who held the large heavy door to the platform. Why did they offer to do that? Do they, like me, appreciate the social interaction with others on the daily back-and-forth. Perhaps they’d wish the experience was not so anonymous, too.
It’s not just the tube station, nor is it just London. Anywhere that a social collection convenes into a seething mass of just, well, people. WIth places to go, people to see, appointments with men about dogs.
If the daily commute was a colour, it would undoubtedly be a greyish-black. The sort of colour of a void. Because not a lot happens there, really. It’s the physical vehicle of getting from A to B, and even to C sometimes. It’s a space of purpose, and not much else.
I get lost in these types of places. Not only locationally, but within myself, too. I get lost in thinking there’s so much life here. So many lives that people will go on to lead once they’ve passed me. Once those tube doors slam shut with a menacing onomatopoeic ‘shum’.
I don’t live in London, and my daily commute includes a bus-full of old grandparents, not a tube train. If anything, it’s a retirement home with wheels. But some recognise me, day after day. It’s mildly pleasant to be asked how I am, or even be greeted. But it’s still pretty grey.
But I’ll get off at the station, go to my office, do my job, and come home. I’ll never know if people feel the same way, and they’ll never know the same.