Late trains

Late trains are an awful plague.

They make your day miserable, in a slow but insistent process.

In France, we’re used to make fun of the Sncf, the national train company. I believe it has been privatized a few years ago, but that’s a detail, considering that private or public, the company has always been laughed at.

That would be because of their recurrent delays, that come unannounced and make us run to the closest relay (a kiosque) to buy something to distract us.

As much as I hate generalizing, I must admit the SNCF does have an unusual way of getting their transport late. And as much as I hate being that annoying customer whose only purpose is to complain, the railroad company kind of deserved the reputation.

We, French, need our trains. It’s a very common transportation : I know very few people who, as kids, didn’t visit a relative by train. So we rely on these trains, we like them, they’re all nice and comfy.

But, We French, also love to complain. Look how much we approve of our president and you’ll see. And most of all, we live to complain about our late trains. we hate delays.

And I get that. It’s a very frustrating feeling when you don’t know if you should just find a place to sleep and go away quickly or stay because perhaps your one-hour late train will be there sometime in the evening.

So we all mass together, eyes staring the info screens, in a delightful anguish. In the cold, we stand there. Every few seconds, we look up, see very bad news (again), go back to our nice-travel fantasy and play repeat.

You see all kinds of people. The very angry ones, just waiting for someone to speak out their anger to. The very annoyed ones, sleeping, reading or chatting with their friends (those are lucky – they’re accompanied). There are some calling, some stating it will be alright, others looking at the empty walls beyond the hall.

I once went early to the station. I just had a big fight with my mom, and I felt so much injustice from that waiting. I called my stepmom, and actually ended up talking to my 5 years old sisters. I felt completely powerless, trying to explain why I couldn’t go home that night. I hadn’t seen her for a long time and had promised I’d hug her that night. I tried to explain. Asked for her to remember the times we were playing on miniature trains and the automatic one couldn’t work. Then told her it was just like that, but in real life.

Her disappointed voice broke my heart. It’s very difficult to live up to everyone’s expectations in life. And my sister is the one whose approval I most value.

I like imagining people’s lives, and what they’re missing with that late train situation. I like imagining the people waiting for them, the kids they won’t be able to see. Their worries become my worries. And I truly start feeling sorry for them. It’s like we’re all the same. We become the same-thinking people for some hours, as we can’t focus on anything else than the delays.

It feels like everyone, rich or poor, young or old, from right or left political parties, are trapped in this time bubble. We all feel this suspension in time, like nothing’s moving around us.

The « I »s become a « we ». And that’s a difficult thing to see nowadays.

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