“You use the train?” she asked me, looking down her nose through her readers. Amassing me with the ‘them’ who relied on the grey and yellow carriages in the Cape Peninsular.
I love the train, the carrier of personal worlds and private realities. I remember my first trip, the first time I engaged, not as a tourist going to Simonstown, but as a commuter. I’d moved offices and decided if I expected my staff to use the train, then I should too.
So I boarded at Claremont station one sunny afternoon. At my naïve best, I didn’t realize the class split by carriage between first and third class. In the first five minutes, two rather dodgy looking teenagers were engaged in argy bargy that was accelerating beyond using their elbows.
The fierce interruption by an elderly ‘tannie’ (auntie) further down the carriage, pried the one youngster away with her eyes to a seat safely beyond ‘punching distance’. At the next station, I changed carriages only to find myself sitting opposite two prolifically and amateurly tattooed young men who glared at me for the duration of the journey.
It was with relief that I arrived safely in Muizenberg.
I now know that the carriages closer to Cape Town are first class and I head for their safety every time I use the train. This week I opted for a train ride into the city rather than face an hour of traffic on a rainy Cape Town morning, plus the R50 parking bill. I love the oneness of it all. It makes us all equal – no vehicle icons to set us apart.
Thousands of personal worlds gathering on a track – going somewhere, their thoughts the journey, the station their destination. A perfect analogy of enjoying the journey, but still getting to your destination.
In a country with our racial history, where we live in the shadow of apartheid and where those that have drive cars, catching the train is a leveler and reminds me of my humanity and the common challenges that I share with my fellow travelers – working mother, wife, step-mother, spiritual ‘journeyer’.
It’s public transport day in early October, maybe I should start drumming up some support!
Kim Barty owns and operates Trojan Horse, a specialist Cape Town PR and communications business.