Having complained in the past about creative work that is indecipherable unless its creator is standing at your shoulder explaining their thought processes, it seemed impolite at best (and plain hypocritical at worst) to post the following poem without a brief attempt to describe its origin.
Flicking onto the TV channel Dave the other day, I came across the episode of Top Gear where the presenters race each other across Japan, and there is a moment when Hammond and May are at a train station and remark on lines painted on the platform to show where queues should form to board the train. Everybody lines up quietly and without complaint, and it’s a wonderful thing to experience – there is none of that awful crowding around the doors, waiting to see whether your reserved seat has already been occupied by someone too ignorant to check if a reservation is in place.
The ironic thing is that the seat reservation system (on the bullet train, at least) is so damned sensible that there is no real need to actually have queues – there are separate carriages for people without reservations, so you always know your seat will be there waiting. So the queues provide a system of order, both generally and personally; a means of taking your place and not having to worry about what others are doing. It’s just one small example of what makes Japan so easy to love.
Sitting at Stoke station, waiting amid the crowd and wondering what seating situation you will find on board when the train arrives is stressful and angst-ridden to someone like me who enjoys calm and order. If only they’d paint some lines on the platform so I might wait in the correct place for the correct carriage, then it wouldn’t just be the Quiet Coach that’s the serene part of the rail experience.
Two simple stripes of paint is all it takes.
Two lines either side of my head
either side of my heart
cradling and calming me in this alien land
but never wrapping around;
either side of my feet
from the platform edge, carrying on straight
a peaceful corridor marked in white
blocking out the alien sound.
Board the train in orderly fashion
leave anxieties behind
outside those undisputable parallel lines.