Commuter Adventures: Selective Deafness

The photograph above was taken last night at the Berlin Rathaus Spandau subway station, to me one of the most beautiful and charming stations of the Berliner subway. There are a lot of interesting stations around the city, no doubt about that, but this one never ceases to enchant me. Call it home turf pride if you want, bu there is something about the design and the details of this particular stop that always makes me want to spend the few extra minutes. I am certainly not the only one who thinks so, because security is always patrolling the area looking for photographers and homeless people loitering around, so it is a bit of a challenge to take the shot without getting scolded. Five seconds to shoot and run is my tried and tested method, and it hasn’t let me down yet.

The train in the photograph is also the one I had just alighted from and was trying to regain my hearing after having spent 20 minutes with the passengers from hell. It is always interesting to watch how my fellow commuters spend their time travelling. Most have their noses buried in their phones, others are shouting into their phones, completely oblivious to the fact that the entire wagon can hear them. Personally I put my phone on DND whenever I get on, simply because the signal is lousy underground, and second, I refuse to let the others in on my conversations! The students are likely to be cramming their homework, and then there are the bookworms on their iPads, Kindles or surprise, surprise, an old-fashioned honest-to-goodness printed book!

It is no surprise to get the odd drunk or sociopath on the train, especially in the evenings, but what ruins my mood each and every time are the parents who cannot control their children or obviously never bothered to teach them basic manners. There was a woman who got on the train last night, she was carrying on a rather heated conversation on her mobile phone while pushing an empty stroller, and her three children in tow aged 3 – 10 roughly. Two out of three were hyper, especially the youngest one, who kept shouting, running, bouncing, and generally disturbing the peace. I have nothing against lively children, but there is a time and a place for everything, and they should be taught to respect and be mindful of others at an early age. The mother kept her nose in her phone the entire time, even after her conversation was finished, not bothering to tell her children to settle down. I won’t deny the fact that I kept wishing they would get off at the next stop, or that I could violently shake some sense into her, but unfortunately they travelled with me to the very last station, and my head was throbbing by the time we all got off. You could hear the collective sigh of relief when everyone else managed to establish some distance between ourselves and the unruly family.

These are the times I practice my zen meditations during the commute to and from work, and try to block out all the extraneous disturbances. Usually I have an audiobook or music to help me along, but I switched bags in a state of mind that I would not exactly call awake, and my headphones spent a cosy day on my desk at home. So it was the meditation of selective deafness, trying to imagine myself alone on an open field, surrounded by the proverbial chirping birds, a babbling brook and not a single human in sight. Needless to say I failed miserably at the mediation, jolting awake each time the children screamed, and it wasn’t even in joy. Sigh. It was a good thing I was meeting my daughter for dinner and could put the bedlam behind me!

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