Some people dread them. Others love them. I do not mind night shifts too much. At my current stage of life, I do prefer working days. However, one thing that I absolutely love about night shifts is travelling back home in the mornings. Not so much because I can go home and rest when everybody else has to work (though I know this to give much pleasure to some regular night-shifters). In the evening, I will go back to work when others rest and the balance will be restored. It is more about going against the common pattern, about falling out of the giant turning wheel and going the other way.
Because I travel by train, I meet crowds of people coming into the city for yet another day at work. When a train pulls in at a central station, people burst out of it mindlessly. Having rehearsed the drill thousands of times before, they seem to move on autopilot.Some not even properly awake yet, others already ahead of themselves, their brains busy making plans, attending meetings, and solving the problems of the day. They move not unlike swarms of birds in the sky – many individuals behaving like one big body, controlled by some implicit sense of direction.
Going in the opposite direction of this force, I sometimes find it quite impossible to walk against the stream of people determined to start yet another day and get things done. Yet, even if I am physically able to make my way, I still like to stop right in the middle and stand still and let them pass. I love the feeling of being an outside observer of this mindless rush. Nobody ever notices me standing there, cutting through the flowing crowd in a noisy train station. It is a somewhat surreal and liberating sensation.
The train leaving the city at this early hour is mostly empty, with only a few souls scattered in its many cars. I often wonder where they are travelling, how they too ended up fallen out of that collective rut. That short journey home is 30 minutes all to myself. I can enjoy the luxury of reading a book, I can draft blog entries (as I am doing right now with this one), or I can kick back and look out the window. First, at the city waking up. Then, as we leave it, I can let my eyes wander on the vast spaces of greenery and water.
As I step out of the train, I have the whole day ahead of me. A day that may be spent in many possible ways, none of which include sitting at the office for 8 or more hours.
At the moment, I am learning to drive. I am looking forward to the independence this skill will bring to my life and the way it will simplify the commute to and from work and will save me time. One thing I will miss though, will be these early morning train journeys with plenty of time and head space for observation and reflection. There’s something special about trains. Even my not-yet-three-year-old knows it!