Experience taught me, it was wise to arrive early. So there I was: sitting on a bench at a station, sipping a Latte and watching the morning stress test. Train pulled up, mass of super stressed passengers erupted on the platform. Mass mass of no-less-stressed passengers pushed into train. Train pulled away. Until the IC before mine pulled into the station …
The stressy disembarked. Two train conductors stepped out of the end of a carriage in front of me. Totally relaxed, they idly watched stressed-out passengers board through the doors they had used, or using the doors of the next carriage. Sipping coffee, the rest of us benchers also idly watched the action.
After a few minutes, one disappeared into the train. The other one looked at his watch. Nearly time to go, so he blew the first warning on his whistle.
As usual, it triggered late-arrivals to jump into the train using the nearest pair of doors. The platform had emptied, but for the conductor and us bench sitting coffee sippers. Suddenly, the escalator launched some suit-wearing flash-head onto the platform, complete with free Metro paper tucked under his arm.
A second whistle sounded. The train was preparing to depart. Its automatically controlled doors, with their steel mechanisms, started to close. This process is relentless, unstoppable, irreversible.
Contrary to expectations of all witnesses, flash-head did not jump into the open doors controlled by the conductors. Instead, he calmly sauntered past, towards the closing doors of the next carriage. The crack between these was ever decreasing and the doors were close to locking like steel wolf-traps.
Flash-head flipped his free Metro paper between the doors. The doors locked on the paper. The Metro headline was on board, the rest of the news outside the carriage. The paper was stuck in a steel grip.
Flash-head looked flabbergasted at his paper. He clearly expected some kind of “sesame open” trick. He turned and looked at the train guard. With open mouth, but soundlessly, he pointed at his paper. The second train guard stuck his head out of the two open doors. What was causing the delay?
His colleague pointed at the only open doors again. Something finally connected in flash-head’s brain. A head retracted, flash-head jumped after it. The second conductor gave the all clear, jumped inside and the last pair of doors closed on the scene, relentlessly and irreversibly.
The train started to roll faster and faster, with one carriage cheerfully waving goodbye with what seemed like a paper hanky – but were today’s headlines, deadlines, paper.
Three minutes later, the right IC pulled up. Relaxed, for this train is never in a hurry to reach its final destination, everybody boarded. Nobody and nothing got stuck between doors. Suitcases were stored, seats claimed, coats and bags checked – everybody settled in.
Soon, the train rolled out of the station. Some passengers chatted amiably, while others were deep into books, E-readers, laptops or the combi of headphones and music. A metal voice announced over the loudspeaker system, someone was going to pass through the train with coffee, tea, cookies, phone chargers. A few passengers counted coins, while others started to snooze. One or two even snored. Contentment, peace, quiet reigned …
A sizzling suddenly sounded. It must be the coffee, tea …
“HARA HARA! HARA KRISHNAH! HARA!”
The carriage stopped snoring, chatting, came close to an apoplexy. Time seemed to stand still – though the landscape still trundled past my window. In total shock, everybody sat ram-rod straight up – eyes bigger than saucers.
Something orange flashed through the aisle, offering books left and right.
“Hara! Hara Krishnah!”
Everybody was too shocked to react.
Orange interpreted this as “no-hopers, not interested in being saved”:
“HARA HARA! HARA KIRISHNAH!” …
followed by a sotto voce: “Have a nice day!”
Off he went, swaddled in orange with a cute little pony tail and his books – straight into to the next peaceful, slumbering carriage.
The air-controlled carriage door hissed close after him. Perhaps a missed chance to get saved, but after a few minutes, people recovered, grumbled, settled down again. The chattering resumed, as did the snoring. The clattering on laptops picked up again, while others were trying to find a right paragraph, the right page.
Nobody saved, but things settled back to normal.