Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Public transport, communal isolation

The tram is packed, 50 people or more. All silent. Societies most anti-social space is one of its most confined. We are together alone, plugged into iPods, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter or playing games on iPhones.

Welcome to the digital society - technology that brings together people from opposite sides of the world, yet pushes apart people sharing a seat on public transport.

Together alone, commuters sit and stand in silence. Put these same people into the MCG after a match-winning goal and it wouldn't be unusual to high-five or embrace one another, yet here to engage in conversation could be deemed creepy and weird.

A man on the footpath along Flinders Street is singing, maybe he's drunk, maybe not. People glare without daring to engage him; shocked, amused and amazed. Initially, I fall in line judging the crazy man before realising, no, good on him! More of this I say! It's public space. We all sing and dance - admit it - so why not in the street if you're feeling it?

Sad, depressing tram ride. I look at people, all within ourselves; the attractive, the forlorn, the exhausted, the caffeinated, the attractive again. Isn't this public transport? At least car drivers interact with each other - with the wave of a hand, toot of a horn, flick of the finger or projection of an expletive.

I've sat in pubs with five people that had much more discussion. Perhaps if this tram had a bar we might be a little more social? After all, none of us are behind the wheel.

1 comment:

  1. I've spent a few days of late in Sydney and Melbourne and noticed exactly that. I wonder how many people are missing out on their (sounds wanky)soul mates, or even just a new friend because they never look up.

    Although having said that, I caught the skybus in Melbs a few weeks ago and a guy sitting next to me asked me about Bossypants which I was reading. We kept talking and ended up having a beer in airport bar. Nothing weird, just felt nice to chat to someone new. I reckon people should just attempt it (conversation), smile even. Never know where it may take them. But I think I'm dreaming. xx Great observation.