Sunday, September 12, 2010

Science fiction and a trip on the tube.......

Do you remember those old science fiction movies where alien forces took over the minds of people? They all became zombie-like and moved around like robots as programmed by the mind altering whatsits. Now I have never been a great fan of science fiction, I admit. I loved Star Trek but that is not quite what I am referring to.

Well, when I went to meet my friends, I happened to be using both trains and the tube. The underground railway, that is. And so help me, it felt as if I had been deposited in the middle of one of those movie sets from way back when. You could clearly pop people into one of 2 categories, largely, but not entirely delineated by age. The older ones had papers or books in hand for the journey. Or crossword puzzles, sudoku etc. The younger ones were attached to white wires, leading directly to what seemed to be their brains. I think.

They had vacant eyes, focusing on something I could not see or hear. They stared straight ahead, unless they had to make little adjustments to their little machines in their pockets, they moved on and off the tube without looking left or right, at speed. Never making eye contact. (Everyone seems to move at warp speed in the big city. Except me.)

It is entirely possible that they were listening to Wuthering Heights, of course. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this at all. So help me, I could become one of them too. But the contrast was so striking that I actually reached into my bag and started making notes. It seemed for a moment as though science fiction had become 2010 fact.

Some of the older plus 50 people were looking around at the rows of younger ones all plugged in, and I am sure they were remembering the times when riding on the tube used to be interesting for people watchers. You could see different books being read. Have the occasional conversation, smile, and be smiled at in return, read the back of papers......

I sound old, don't I. "Back in my times, we did..." There is no phone reception down there under the city. So music, or downloads must have been the order of the day. Music, mainly.

Then there was the train. I caught the 3.30pm train home, which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be classed as a commuter train. Yet nearly every person on the train was not only plugged into little white wires, but they also had their laptops/netbooks/iPads/kindles out as well. For those of us unplugged relics of an earlier age, there was the sound of hundreds of fingers hitting keys to accompany us on the trip. A different kind of rhythm.

The art of conversation is dying. Not that having a conversation on the train is necessarily what people want to do. But................. if I owned a laptop/netbook/iPad/iPhone, I suspect I would have been writing a post on the blog, to tell you about my day, now wouldn't I??

As white (as in A is for ap--- ) seems to rule when it comes to little wires, I have to ask why they don't launch a range of fashionable accessories for the wires. Earrings seem to be obscured by the earpieces, after all. Come on, Mr Jobs, there is another way to take over the world! Maybe they already have a range. But not on the tube last Thursday that I could see.

There has been a sudden ultra-fast change in the IT world, if I manage to stand still long enough to catch my breath and look around. Do you remember PCs? They are hard to find in some places, and then they seem to now be touch screen. The lap top rules. And then we have all things apple. The iPhones are ridiculously expensive here. Especially when you still have to pay a hefty monthly charge too. However, those who have them, of all ages, say they would never have anything else after getting one. And believe me, everyone on those trains or tubes seemed to have one. How nice they can all afford them!

David and I popped into an Apple store a while back and I tried to work out how to use the iPad. Is this the next thing to make the laptop obsolete? I am stuck back in the dark ages, people.

But I think of the rows of people with little white wires, and something in me is saddened. Sometimes, just a grin, or a meeting of eyes is nice, you know. Communicating wordlessly with a stranger. The blank stare? Not so much.


Anonymous said...

Train journeys are still great places for conversations with strangers. In the past few months I've met a drunk Australian who lives in Milton Keynes (and doesn't like cricket); a woman from Stourbridge who was in a relationship with a woman that lived on the south coast of Wales; a woman who used to be a legal secretary, who's daughter was about to have her second child; and on the tube yesterday four teenagers who reminded me so much of myself and my friends 8 years ago that it was quite scary!

I'm also one of those people plugged in to the iPhone though (though my headphone wires aren't white!), and at 11:30pm last night I was sitting on a packed train back from Euston chuckling to myself listening to some Radio 4 comedy.

Linds said...

I am amazed at the incredible amount of access phones and other mobile devices have nowadays! As I said, I would more than likely have been plugged in too had I had any of the equipment. And to be frank, I don't travel enough or commute, so my words are those of a country mouse come to town in a way. I was just so amused by the changes! And ever so slightly left behind in a sense. But watch this space. I may be about to make a change or 2!
PS I have had some great conversations on the train in the past too. I love chatting to strangers! But my journey was marked by a carriage full of people with heads down, working away this time. Maybe next time will be different!

Vee said...

Here I sit on my PC thinking that I am a total and complete dinosaur and feeling rather smug that I am. I do not want wires out of my ears and I'd far rather have a bit of conversation on the train even if people don't want it. One finds out the most interesting things.

Thank you for writing about this, especially about the sounds of all that clicking. I was right there with you. And thank you, as well, for not describing the smells.

Hope that you'll share what it was to be with your friends. You left the best parts out!

Needled Mom said...

We were just saying the same thing the other day. Everyone seems to be connected to some sort of white wire these days. I am feeling so old and naked!!! I do like your idea of accessories ofr the wires!!!!

Jane said...

My husband has recently bought his nearly 92 yr old mother an Ipad as she wanted to email and finds a laptop too heavy. She's currently using it to listen to music and read books - great to be able to enlarge the text size, and finds the finger touch keypad less difficult for her arthritic fingers. The local A store said their oldest customer is 96 years old.
Agree with you about the train though - very irritating, though better than loud phone conversations!

Dawn said...

I can remember when I began working at the university, 17 years ago already (how can that be?) that one of the first things I noticed was a group of students walking next to each other on the sidewalk between classes, but none of them talking to each other, but each on the phone with someone else. And the most oft uttered phrase, poor grammar that it is, was "Where are you at?" It's gotten much more intense since then!

I don't understand how people afford to get everything new that comes out.

Olson Family said...

heehee - My husband and daughters fall into the 'white wired zombie' category while I resist - I take along a book (with pages to turn, no reading from a 'device' for me) or Sudoku puzzle book. :)

Katherine said...

Ah, but look, Auntie Lindsay, someone is one step ahead of you: I quite fancy some of those, but my hair covers up my ears.

I sometimes keep my headphones with no music (or, indeed Wuthering Heights), just to STOP people talking to me. Sadly, this did not work on the bus yesterday, as the charming gentleman next to me kept picking up the scarf I was making and fiddling with it(taking it out of my lap, which brought his hand far too close to my Private Lady Area for my liking), and trying to read my text messages over my shoulder.

I like a selection of activity for long journeys. Fat Victorian novel, ipod for music and podcasts, sewing/crochet, notebook. Hello, five hour coach journey to London.

Becky said...

I would have to say I'm a "fellow dinosaur" and I'll probably stay that way. I like the feel of a book in my hands, alert eyes, and nothing plugging my ears. It just seems that there is getting to be less and less human interaction in so many ways. I love this post.