Cars V Trains: Cheap at half the price…

Trains are cheap – immensely cheap.

This is the one major benefit of public transport, there is no initial outlay. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds initially, and thousands of pounds again on insurance, and then hundreds on tax. You also needn’t worry about fuelling it, or the repair bills you are inevitably going to incur. No, instead you simply buy a ticket, jump aboard, sit and enjoy the ride. Wonderful.

Public transport, be it bus, train or plane, also gives you time and space (sometimes) to think. And I mean properly think. Those lovely ‘Quiet Zones’ are the perfect place to get a bit of studying in, to get absorbed in a good book, or to just wonder through the mind. I’m startled by the memories, thoughts and, worryingly for some, ideas I come up with in these places. It was in one of those very zones that the idea for this series of posts came into my head. In fact, it’s on many a train that the scribblings for these posts are made.

Although cars give you more freedom – where you go, at what time and what speed – they don’t give you the opportunity to think. In some ways, it can allow you to really clear your mind – as you’re concentrating on the task in hand and looking out for hazards, your mind is constantly occupied and therefore whatever might have been bothering you can be forgotten. It offers you a break in some respects.

The flip side of this is that if you’re having a particularly stressful time, or you do wonder off into a day dream, you’re not concentrating on the road. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have fallen foul of this, as I’m sure many of you have too. And how many of us can say we’ve stayed totally focused on every motorway (or freeway to you guys in the states) that we’ve travelled down? Although motorways/freeways are great ways to cover vast distance, my god are they boring. Becoming monotonous, they feel like you’re running down a hallway in a Scooby Doo cartoon. Tree, lamppost, tree, tree, lamppost, lorry, tree, lamppost… you get the idea. The dangers of this are obvious, but it’s a worrying thought as to just how many people are currently zoned in, or not as the case maybe, on the public road.

By contrast, cars can offer you a world of imagination. There are examples where the car has enabled people to go onto to create great pieces of art and photography – LeeFriedlander, for example, followed in the footsteps of Walker Evans and Robert Frank photographing America through the windscreen of his car. Although some claim this method of photography was “a slap in the face of the high seriousness of the American landscape tradition”, I can’t help but triumph the work of Friedlander, and not for his up-start methodology. The little imperfections and dirt on the windscreen really makes you feel like you are there, viewing the landscape from a car seat. By adding the visual barrier of the windscreen, it’s almost removing the barrier of you not actually being able to be there to touch what you are looking at, by showing you that there is something there between you and image. It’s rather wonderful in my opinion.

Similarly, it’s also another person’s choice at what time you get there – or not at the case maybe. Over the past week, I’ve travelled using a variety of trains, cars and buses everyday; in fact, I’ve still got another 3 days to go before I can have a well earned rest (and type up all the little stories too!), but I’ve noticed one thing from the past 8 days – if it involves any form of public transport, getting all those people to be in the right place, at the right time, is near nigh on impossible. The fact you are on the train, with the people you are with is more down to chance than it is planning.

I’ve always been fascinated by the paths our lives take; that feeling of destiny as to why are paths are crossing now, why we are all sat on a train and why your reading this? What decision was it that brought you here? A simple link on twitter you might think; but why were you on twitter at the point you clicked on it? Why were you on the computer or on your phone at the precise moment? Interesting thought isn’t it.

What’s less interesting and more annoying is the fact that trains will usually get you to where you need to be either too early or, more likely, too late. Still, in those times when you are sat around waiting or you have some time to kill, sites like twitter, facebook and even this blog exist to keep you entertained.

Bizarre to think, isn’t it, that something delaying a train I was on made me think to write this and now your reading it, potentially waiting for a delayed train. And, had it not been for those delays, we might not have time fillers like this existing. After all, if it’s one thing you can’t do when you’re driving, it’s read this.

And if you are, stop now. Driving that is, not reading 😉

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