You Are So Weird
Every morning I get the train to the city, and every morning I pass through one of the busiest stations in the capital, making my way to my connecting train, along with tens of thousands of other people. And then I repeat the process in reverse at the end of the day, and let the train take me back to the countryside, and bed, only to do the whole thing again the following morning.
I try to make the process as efficient as possible. I get up at twenty past five in the morning, and as quietly as possible I get dressed, drink a coffee and I leave the house shortly after six. If I can get out the front door without waking my wife or baby daughter my day is already a success.
Next, I drive to the small country station a few miles away. I know where to stand on the platform so I have as little competition for a seat as possible, and I like to sit next to the window in a seat where I don’t have to face anybody. I put on my headphones and listen to ambient noises at full volume in an effort to block out the sound of any people talking, coughing, sniffing or sneezing and I close my eyes. At this time in the morning I aim to have as little human contact as possible, and I hope the noise in my ears will overcome the caffeine in my system and let my brain sleep for the 90 minutes-or-so journey ahead.
I would sleep if I hadn’t had the coffee at home, but there are some things I’m not prepared to sacrifice for the sake of a personal system.
I live just a couple of stops from the end of the line, so the chances of getting a good seat are above average. And I will remain undisturbed for a few stops until I start to get closer to the city, and inevitably someone will come and sit next to me, brushing and nudging me with their elbows, while I use meditation techniques to try to not let it bother me.
On the return journey I usually try to make productive use of the time, such as writing a bit of my book or a blogpost on my iPad – just like I’m doing now – or I’ll try to close my eyes for a while with the white noise playing in my ears. I’m normally tired all the time, so any chance of a catnap is precious. Or I’ll listen to a podcast.
This is how it usually is, every day. And it’s fine. It works for me for the time being, although leaving the house before my daughter wakes up and getting home after she goes to bed breaks my heart every day. So I’m always happy when my wife sends me a picture or two to distract me from my work and I imagine that I’m there with them, involved in those special early months. Feeding, playing and giggling.
Sometimes there’s trouble with the trains. For whatever reason it might be cancelled and I’ll have to wait an hour for the next one. Last week, though, three trains were cancelled in a row, and so I was stuck miles from home, waiting in the cold. There was nothing I could do except people watch.
Normally I’m rushing somewhere or other and I don’t get the chance to observe other humans as they race about, trying to catch their trains home. But that evening I had the luxury of time, so I bought myself a coffee, and sat on the station concourse watching people as they tried to navigate themselves to the correct platform, or to the exit, or as they waited to meet their friends.
I realised two things.
The first thing I realised is that people are really weird. All people are just odd. They look odd, the behave in odd ways. They are just plain old strange. I saw about ten people limping, one person with their foot in one of those weird boot things that you wear when you break your ankle, and other people augmented with all sorts of mobility aids, neck braces, slings and casts. Weird.
I saw about three people rushing around with cupboard doors under their arms. They weren’t together. Someone else was carrying a chair. One man appeared to have one leg shorter than the other, another was wearing a ridiculous hat. Most people seemed out of proportion, overweight, incredibly skinny, top heavy or lopsided or really short or really tall. Some people looked exhausted, others stressed out, some looked like they were drunk or stoned, there were other oddballs people watching, just like me.
Some were so perfectly groomed they appeared almost like mannequins, and others who – not for lack of trying – just seemed unable to suppress their intrinsic scruffiness. I saw a black woman wearing an orange jumpsuit, an Asian man passed me three times, wearing a bowler hat and looking lost until a station attendant pointed him in the right direction. Some young French students gathered near one of the food outlets, shouting and laughing amongst themselves in a language I didn’t understand, and some ladies in their fifties arrived off a train, dressed up like teenagers up for a night on the town.
There were Hasidic Jews with their big hats, beards and ringlets; Muslims, and Sikhs. A lady carrying a bible in one hand and a bag with a dog poking out of it in the other. Teenagers with skateboards, lots of tired-looking office workers with those folding bicycles, and one man whizzing about on what seemed to be a motorised wheel. People were running, most were walking, getting in each others’ way, bumping into each other, others slipping through the crowds like a boss.
I saw people in a frenzy, people with intense thousand-yard stares, people in a flap, people laughing, chilling, reading, waiting, kissing, hugging, waiting. Angry people. Happy people. Crying people. People. All shapes and sizes. All kinds of clothes, haircuts, hats and shoes. Facial adornments. Jewellery. Tattoos. All creeds, colours, political leanings, temperaments, ability levels, sanity levels, and weariness levels. We’re a tired bunch.
Everywhere I turned everyone was looking weird, dressing weird, speaking weird, being really weird. Odd. Strange. There were no exceptions. Not a single normal person among the several thousand who passed in front of my eyes that evening. And that includes me, and it includes you. Everyone is really fucking weird. We all are.
Normal is an illusion.
We can squeeze ourselves into uniforms, give ourselves job titles, live by regimented routines, follow procedures and processes, nine-to-five, Monday to Friday. But no matter how hard we try to square the circle, we will fail. Because we’re as odd as odd can be.
And we’re beautiful.
That was the second thing I noticed. The old man with the old three-legged dog following behind, the woman with the oversized sunglasses, the girl with the facial scars, the old lady who is more wrinkles than person, the little boy with the snotty nose, the station attendant staring into his phone rather than helping people, the football fans chanting their way through the concourse, the toy guys holding holds, the elders couple snogging in the corner, and even the dirty homeless man working his way through the crowd asking for change. Every single one beautiful, immaculate in their oddness, in their uniqueness, and the undefined texture and detail that they bring to the world.
Every beautiful, weird person is a complete universe in themselves. And with themselves they bring colour to our world.
You are so odd. And that’s amazing.
Eventually I made it onto a train, and I got home much later than usual that night, which is fine. A couple of days later, at the weekend, I got to see my daughter. She’s only seven months old, and like all babies she’s really weird. She does weird things, makes weird noises, wobbles about, and sucks her toes. Her hair sticks up and she laughs when the wind blows in her face.
I love her.