My parents live in the rural North of Holland. It’s a 2,5 to 3 hour train ride to get there. Not long, for some countries’ standards; pretty bloody long for Dutch ones. I have a love-hate relationship with this train ride. I hate it when the train is overly full or when I need to pee or when one annoying person decides to sit nearby on the one day that I forgot to take my earphones with me. I love it when I have a quiet seat by the window, when I have a good book with me or the skies treat me with pretty sights (rainbows, sunrises, thunderstorms, etc).
It can also have a very philosophical effect on me and my thoughts.
Last weekend for instance, I had decided to go up North after a long week of work and a slight flu. I decided to leave early in the morning. I ran into a co-worker, who was actually on his way to the office that very morning. He told me one of the software systems the company runs on had been down all night and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to this day, as it was bound to be chaotic. I felt lucky it was not my turn to work the weekend and smiled as I soaked up the morning sun.
I was completely relaxed. Something that would prove to come in handy later on…
When I got to the station I saw something was up. The train schedule screens were lighting up and I saw grumpy people walking away from the info-desk. I asked what was going on and found out a combination of planned and unplanned issues had disrupted certain routes, including mine. It would take a bit longer, but as far as I could see, it only meant one extra change of trains and not too much delay. It was still early, so no prob.
By the time I got to my first stopover a new issue had arisen and it was announced that I would have to take a bus for a part of the way. Bummer. I don’t like buses. At all. The sun was still shining though, and I had a newspaper with me, as well as my earphones so I wasn’t too bothered. I walked to the busplatform and sat on my bag, which was soft and comfy as I had taken some dirty laundry with me. I sat there, just soaking in the mid day sun. It was surprisingly warm, which reminded me that Spring had definitely made its arrival.
When a big object suddenly blocked my rays, I knew the bus had arrived. When it rolled to a stop, about 200 people ran towards it. I moved myself out of the chaos and back into the sun and decided to wait for the next bus. Soon after, several buses arrived all at once and I shook my head, witnessing the shamelessness with which people pushed and shoved themselves towards the entrances.
A guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I could see if the bus in front of us was already full. I was already starting to say something along the lines of “I know as much as you do, dude”, when I realized the guy was blind and that he was the only one who actually didn’t have a clue. I asked one of the orange-vest peeps to help the guy onto the next bus, which they said they couldn’t really promise and he seemed to be OK with that. He disappeared into the crowd at some point and I guess he found his way.
I watched several more buses come and go. More people were now waiting on the platform and I realized my chilled out mood wasn’t going to get me a seat on any of these rides. I decided I didn’t really want it anyhow. Not like that. So I called my parents and told them I was going to get a bite to eat in whatever-town-I-was, and see if things would be different later on in the afternoon.
So, I walked back to the train station and, to my own pleasant surprise, saw a train that was about to leave in precisely the direction I needed to go. It was pretty much empty. Ah, how I love my guardian angel!
And as the train snaked it’s way through the Dutch fields, my own train of thoughts went back to the rowdy crowd that I had witnessed earlier. The way they ran towards an arriving bus… It was just so strange… And kind of funny too… I envisioned what it must have looked like; me sitting there, squinting into the sun, hardly moving at all… And then this same plump family running by, every couple of minutes; first to this bus, then to the next, to the left, to the right. It was just so silly; fit for a Laurel & Hardy sketch…
I reminisced about how little respect there had been for the elderly and handicapped. At the same time, I thought back to how unapologetically some of these elderly citizens had driven their strollers into the crowd to get through. I thought about how organized we always claim to be, as a peoples, and how primal people were reacting to this situation. I pondered about food aid trucks in war-stricken zones and how ruthless people could be in their quest to get their hands on a cup of rice, a piece of bread, a can of condensed milk.
I reflected on how ugly this side of mankind was and how I could pour this situation into a blog. I said to myself “it shows what an inferior species we are” but I immediately realized that isn’t true at all. The fact that we sometimes share our food and belongings and can do this very selflessly, is actually what makes us special as a species. Fighting over territory and food (especially when it’s scarce) is a very instinctual reaction that is displayed by pretty much every living thing on earth.
And then it hit me… I was actually portraying anti-evolutionary behavior, despite often proclaiming to be a supporter of Darwins “survival of the fittest” theory. In that particular situation I was clearly not the fittest. I just gave up, hiding behind an excuse of being too polite… Or was I just too lazy to get down and dirty?
The fact that I ever got where I needed to be, was more luck than anything else.
I told myself that my attitude would most likely be more feral if my life really depended on it. Or that of my family’s. I don’t really know though. And I guess that only demonstrates how lucky I really am.