Commuting is a paradox. You are together with hundreds of people and, most of the times, you are alone. It’s the time of the day in which you are immersed and overwhelmed by personal thoughts. The kids at school, the meeting at the office, the exam at the university, the match at the stadium. The list could last endlessly.
It is also the time in which I like to observe the people around me, their behaviour, their gestures, their way to talk or their clothes. In a city with more than eight hundred thousands of people, the chance to see something new every morning is so easy that it is really difficult to find common patterns. Me and my roommate Francesco already found one, but it is not so politically correct to be told on these pages.
Eventually, I tried to categorise the people that I meet every morning around 8am and every afternoon around 5:30pm on the line 51 of the GVB metro. Trying to survive a ride with thousands people within a 2-wagon vehicle in the rush hours, I made a short list of six different profiles that you will surely notice, in case you are traveling with the GVB metro.
The Last Minute Friends
It is more likely to meet them in stations like Centraal or Waterlooplein, where you need to validate your OV-Chipkaart to pass through the gates. They are there, close to the gate, waiting for you, inspecting the floor or the ceiling. They seem to be uninterested to the surrounding world, but they are there just for you. And as you validate your OV-Chipkaart, they make an athletic jump behind you and, wearing a shameless smile, they pass by the gate with nonchalance. In the end, you have to be as much cold as possible to avoid disappointment for their lack of gratitude.
If you leave a piece of bread in the garden, a herd of ants will be assaulting it after a while. The same happens with this category, but all they are hunting for is a sliding door. It doesn’t matter if in the corridors between the sliding doors there will be space for parking a Boing 767. They will mill around the sliding doors, because of reasons. I thought that it is some natural instinct that lead them to fight for the first place in the going-out-of-the-metro race. And the sliding door is the prey. If it is something different from this, I gently ask at any psychologist reading this post to give me a proper reason.
The Digital Natives
The setting is easy to be described. Outside, the World War III. Atomic bombs are exploding everywhere. In the meantime, a virus is spreading around, which is more than lethal if mixed with nuclear radiations. This combination generates monsters that are coming out from the tunnels, biting and infecting people everywhere. A storm of acid rain starts to cover the city and melting down bridges. Cars are smashing against the wagons. Fire is almost at every corner of the subway. Nevertheless, the Digital Natives won’t give up checking their smartphones and posting on Facebook about the apocalypse all around.
The Imaginary Friends
They occupy the seat close to the window. They are looking outside, smoking joints, drinking beers and watching porn on a black iPad. They are enjoying their lives everywhere they go. They usually smell, but some of them can wear a wonderful fragrance that you will hardly forget. They sing out loud the songs coming out of the stereo they are holding on their legs. They dance like butterflies but careful to do not lose the seat. You wish to see them, but you don’t. Because the person sitting close to them, on the corridor side, cover them with a special cape, which makes them invisible and you unable to sit there.
The Golden Boys
8:24am. GVB played the usual joke of providing a 2-wagon vehicle during rush hours. People become sardines, metro becomes a can. “That was probably all that was available during that time.”, they will apologize. At every stop, new sardines want to get into the can. They have jobs, classes, exams, matches. They are all going to do something important, so they need to get into the can. What they don’t know is that they have to face some sardines that are smarter than others. Yes, because some sardines require more volume than others. They wear backpacks in which they carry useful small stuff like the Sacred Graal, the paperback edition of the three books of the Lord of the Rings, a television, the complete collection of Bee Gees vinyls and their mother’s laundry. Yes, I know, that space would be useful for another sardine to join the can, but, you know, they can’t get rid of their important load.
You think it is over, but it’s not over. You finally reached your stop. The only final gap between you and your destination is the sliding door. You also managed to make a way through the Ants. The loudspeakers announce your stop. You wear your best smile. And there the war begins. They show up in front of you, on the platform. You feel like wave them way with your firing whip and your hot breath but you can’t. They stand there, yelling at you. “You – shall – not – pass!”. Therefore, you remember that your bike got a flat tire, your boyfriend cheated on you, your boss wants to fire you, or you missed the lottery first prize for a number. That will be the moment when your shoulder will avenge you, remembering to those standing in front of you that it would be nice to let the vehicle be empty before they will get on it.