A grey and rainy Tuesday in April. It’s 8:31 when I enter the arriving train. It’s the late train, and it is on time, almost. Sadly, that is not always the case. As usual I take the last wagon and enter through the door close to the wagon in front of it. I’m commuting by train for almost seven month now. Today will be the last time, though.
It’s a shabby train. From the outside as well as the inside. Colored in washed red, bleached from the sun. It’s two stories high. A faint stench of beer and urine greets me, as the electronic double-wing door slides open. I go upstairs, the air is better there. The staircase is narrow and the clearance is not very high. I bend a bit while taking the small steps. They are almost dry today. No danger of slipping. Thats good. The floor is covered with some rubber-like greyish material, which let’s you slip easily, when it is flooded. But it provides some bumps along the common walk ways and the stairs, to lessen the threat of breaking your neck.
The floor cover goes up the walls a few centimeters, offers the charm of hospital flooring and has an all-in-all easy to clean attitude. I haven’t seen it clean once. No surprise that it’s dirty, today. Sprinkles of mud, remains of a newspaper, a beer can and a freshly used bread wrap make up the close-to-the-floor-landscape. My gaze goes up. The first eight seats are at right angle to the driving direction, four on each side and facing each other. Those are often polluted with more waste, rowdies and or drunk. Not today. Behind them the first common rows of seats begin. Two seats on each side, alternating direction by every pair of seats that face each other. Those facing seats have a small table between them and are basically the only place I could stretch my legs. Nevertheless, I take the very first standard row on the left and squeeze in. It basically has only one seat. The second one is an auxiliary seat, you can turn the backrest down. I always put my rucksack on it, so I do today.
The seat covers are not as ugly as they are used to be in public transport. The main color is blue, almost pure blue, but might be bluebonnet, with a regular pattern of dark grey, almost black squares. The obligatory hints at their continued usage are not missing, though. Mine holds three black spots – reminiscent of some chewing experience, I guess – besides being more grey then blue in certain areas. The backside of the seat in front of me is plain grey plastic and provides a small table of the same color and material. I have ever wondered how slender one must be to actually use it.
The train will leave approximately in three minutes. Which gives me 21 minutes until I have reached my destination. I pull my MacBook from the rucksack. I had an idea to fix this tree-algorithm bug, that hunted me since yesterday, during the previous tram-ride, and was determined to test it out. The MacBook is securely sheathed within my twelve south BookBook case. Before I open the case, I always weight it, first in my left hand, then in the right. It weighs more then I expect, every time anew. The cases touch is amazing. Rugged and thick and at the same time smooth and soft. ‘That’s how high quality leather is supposed to feel’, I think. You can feel its various marks and scratches. It wears them as medals, for protecting it’s precious content. You can feel the stitching along the rim. The imprinted 12. The tough back, made from a different more raw kind of leather. It’s overall appearance resembles an old leather bound book. It’s supposed to be a disguise, to turn tech-robbers away. Well, that’s more a marketing gag then anything else.
I squeeze the case on my lap, the side where the zipper is closer to the hardback cover faces down. For a second I consider to switch over to one of those places with a table in the middle, but I decide against it. I prefer not being disturbed to plenty of space. A stripe of leather, matching the cases back, serves as the pull strap for each of the zippers. As I pull them, the zippers smoothly follow my hands movements. Simultaneously around the left and the right corner. I open the case and the brightly shining red of it’s interior, greets me. Just in the moment I touched the lid of my Mac to open it, I hear voices. I recognize them and glimpse along the walkway.
Three older men, all of them have well passed their 50s, are coming upstairs. One after the other. Only the third is tall enough, that he has to bend like me, to reach the upper floor without bumping his head. They took the other door and the other staircase, as always. I instantly recognize the white bearded, he is the first on the stairs. I might have seen the others before, but I can’t remember them. They are talking about fußball. As always. The white bearded regards me with a nod as he sees me. His beard is not absolutely white, their are many places where the former color, a dark brown, shines through. The majority of his hair is white, too. Hair and beard are cleanly cut. I can’t really hear what the say. But I recognize his accent. Sounds genuine Lower Rhine. They are taking the first facing seats with a table, across my seat and keep on chatting. I can only make out some words: goalkeeper, referee, unfair, foul, Fortuna, next season, meister.
The white bearded sits facing me. He wears his usual clothes: a sand-brown weather coat, he has opened while taking his seat. Beneath a bottle-green turtleneck pullover. His trousers – actually corduroys, it seems – match the coat in color. Dark brown rugged leather shoes and moss-green socks in them finish his attire. Taken in total, it renders him as a grown eco-activist or a relict of the 68er movement. His shoes remember me about the thing on my lap. I open the lid and begin coding my ideas away.
Nineteen minutes later I close the lid. I fixed the bug successfully. Just a moment later the train breaks for the station I have to get off. The white bearded leaves the train at the same station. As always. He takes a different door.
I see him again, outside at the tram station. Alone. I have no idea where those others left the train. He is reading a book: “Blauwärts” from Hans Magnus Enzensberger. I recognize a button he is wearing, it reads: “Sag JA! zu Kultur” (Say YES! to culture). 68er-generation, now I’m almost sure.
The tram arrives. We get in. Different doors, again. It’s crowded, as always, and we have to stand. Only a few meters and four people are separating us. He leaves the tram at the city hall. As always. I just now realize that I will probably never see him again. Should I have said something? We were travelling together, almost every day, for the last seven month. But we have never talked to each other. At least a ‘farewell’, would have been nice, or?
I wrote this post in response to this weeks edition of the Weekly Writing Challenge.