Heaven is a Train From Hell

The number of times a day I think the words people are the worst probably qualifies me as a misanthrope. Or maybe just someone who loves people so much at their best that she’s let down when they fall short? Yeeeeah, that’s it.

Don’t worry, I’m hard on myself, too.

Anyway, a long-distance train so packed that the aisles are jammed with people and suitcases is fertile soil for fast-growing feelings of misanthropy. I found myself on such a train– a Virgin train from Glasgow to London– a couple of weeks ago. My feelings toward Virgin were murderous indeed (half the train being “first-class” and nearly empty) but, in a shocking twist, my fellow passengers saved the day.

A tourist high-fived a little kid being carried down the car, one woman passed another a tabloid she’d just finished: “It’s absolute trash but I read the whole thing! I don’t know what happened– and I was meant to be doing a job application.” We all fussed over a sick elderly man– and then he tried to offer us parts of his lunch, desperate to reciprocate… The strong helped the less-so to lift and carry, and the strongest stood for the entire trip. At each stop, everyone shifted, passing luggage down the car and climbing up onto seats and out of the way of exiting passengers.

I’ve experienced the inverse of this train before, and there’s nothing bleaker than human hostility over relatively petty matters: it makes one wonder what, in a real emergency, people might be willing to do to survive, and provokes a howling loneliness.

But not this time. I left the train practically gasping for some fresh air but actually in a good mood– cooperation is a natural high.

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