Hello again – oh don’t have a go – if you haven’t worked out that I'm extremely unreliable on the posting front by now, then you are beyond help! :-)
Let’s face it, I'm a bit crap.
None the less, every now and again something pops into my mind that nudges my fingers into typing mode.
And here we are.
Tonight, I saw something that I haven’t seen in age; something that stood out as odd and then immediately got me thinking.
Heading home from work after a late shift, I boarded the Tube and sat myself down. The empty seat wasn't the oddity; this was well after peak commuting times on London’s busy underground system.
The odd thing was a thing that absolutely shouldn't be odd at all. In fact the only thing odd about it, was the fact that it is odd!
Let me explain.
I looked up and noticed the man opposite me. Something was out of place. Something wasn’t right. It took me about 4 seconds to figure out what it was that was wrong (4 seconds looking directly at a fellow London commuter at that time of night is a very, very, long time – practically stalking).
He was reading a book.
An actual book.
Not a mobile.
Not a Kindle.
Not a free newspaper.
He didn't even have earphones plugged into the sides of his head – I think he may have been concentrating on the book and felt, somehow, that this was sufficient entertainment.
I know, it seems crazy that a book should be enough, right? Oddly enough, time and time again I see Kindle readers with their ears plugged up. There’s something about the switch to gadgetry that changes us – stops mere words being enough. With gadgets we have to multi-task – by law! We have to flick between things, have multiple inputs all at once.
This made me look at myself. I was using my phone to play Scrabble while listening to a podcast. Neither of these activities, it appears, were enough to get me from Aldgate East to Paddington individually. When did that start? Was I really concentrating on the podcast while trying to remember how to spell ‘excellent’ ** without the use of spell checker?
** I have literally never got ‘excellent’ in Scrabble, I either put ‘exit’, ‘tax’ or ‘taxi’ down, or else I wind up giving up 8 points at the end!
I looked along the row of seats and then the entire carriage. Everyone else had a phone in their hands (including me), everyone else had earphones attached (me too, again). There were a couple reading newspapers while listening to something, but apart from them, everyone was glued to a screen and plugged into their own private sounds. I assume some of them were watching what they were listening to, but I suspect that most were not.
Look at us, look at all of us. row upon row of robots blending into the background. We are camouflaged into invisibility by our electronics.
It really hit me that it is such a strange twist of modernity that a book should seem so out of place. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the absurdity of a book standing out so much.
Try as I might, I could not remember the last time I’d seen it. Kindles and other such e-readers, I feel that I see now and again, though it is mainly only a mobile that faces attend to these days.
The most worrying part of all, and the reason I was inspired to crack out the laptop and write this post, was that I can’t remember the last time that I read a book, either a real one or via Kindle. Nor could I remember the last time I wrote. It’s not lost on me that these things are often related.
To be able to blank out the commute, lost in only words on a page is an all too rare treat that we really should indulge in. We should encourage it in those around us but most of all we should be encouraging it in ourselves – why the hell not? We deserve it!
So I pledge to make baby steps towards brining words properly back into my life – and I don’t mean random Scrabble words.
Step 1. I took this one straight away – I put down my phone, sat back and just listened to the podcast. Took it in. Concentrated. The makers of the programme deserve as much.
Step 2. I knew I needed to write this down and add my words into the ether – for some passer-by to find. I know I need to try harder at keeping this regular – I just don’t like talking when I don’t really have anything to say (more or less blasphemy to say that in the blogging world).
Step 3. Read. Read properly. Whether it is via Kindle or actual books, doesn't matter but to leave my ears out of it and let my eyes do the job they are paid to do.
Actually allow myself to listen to the words. Let them speak.
And so there it is. Man on the tube with your book – I love you a bit. You helped pluck me from the heard, made me see that I was shuffling along with my head in my phone, insulated from all around me.