I recently took a train from Newcastle in England to Edinburgh in Scotland – a journey lasting about 90 minutes and one which I do regularly. But this particular trip was marked out by the drama in the carriage in which I had, by happenstance, ended up.
It was the ‘Quiet Coach’. Is this a British phenomenon or a service offered in other countries too? A carriage where customers are asked to keep electronic devices switched to silent, not to take phone calls, and generally, yes, to keep quiet.
Being British, we like these things to be observed in other carriages too of course. But the Quiet Carriage is supposed to be a haven, a travelling sanctuary.
Because I take this trip regularly, I do not mind which carriage I am in. I am just glad to get a seat and look forward to getting home. As I entered what happened to be the Quiet Carriage this evening there was a palpable atmosphere. I could see immediately why. A family, with young toddlers, were seated about half way along. Just nicely placed for any noise they might make to reach every customer in the whole of the carriage. Given that this train had come up from London and had therefore already been travelling for 3 hours, I suspected that people’s nerves were shredded, particularly as it was not clear whether the adults in the party were familiar with Quiet Coach etiquette. They certainly didn’t seem to be trying to control their noisy children; perhaps they had just given up. They definitely were toughing out the dagger looks and huffs from their fellow travellers. I guess one has to develop a thick skin as a parent.
And what was I doing? I was feeling sorry for everyone. For all the customers who had hoped for a quite journey, because I know it would have driven me mad to endure 3 hours of naughty kid-noise (my solution would have been to move to a different carriage, by the way). And for the parents who did not seem to be getting much sympathy from everyone else – it must be hard to travel with young kids. I was starting to feel like maybe I should help in some way, but what could I do…?
So I swiftly put on my headphones to listen to the next listing in my R section. Thankfully it was the album Trouble by the American singer Ray LaMontagne. Talking about a sanctuary, what a perfect escape this proved to be after a long day at work.
The music is a mellow blend of folk and country, with elements of soft rock thrown in. Beautiful strains of piano and guitar mixed with solo violin and vocals.
It is lying back in a hayfield after a picnic. It is paddling in a gently rippling surf.
As I looked out from my personal soundtrack at everyone getting on with their journey, I felt myself relaxing and could see a different perspective. Who was I to make assumptions about what other people were thinking in this situation? I knew only how I would have felt. I stopped thinking about the carriage and enjoyed the journey home.
Music does that kind of thing to you. Thank goodness.