What if Trains had Feelings?

Komal Vachhani
6 min readJul 26, 2022

We overlook the beauty behind the small things. Like trains.

Image Credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia

I stand at the station most mornings with an iced coffee in my hand in the hopes of tricking my brain that I’m more awake than I am. There is a period lodged between the moment I get to the station and the second the train arrives; one that begs me to envision stereotypical movie scenes in the midst of everything. You know the ones, where the guy confesses his love to the girl through the window and stands there staring at the train as it departs into the sunset. So stupid. Never understood why the girl never gets off the train even when she wants to. Or other times, when I’m not at a regular train station anymore. I’m at Platform 9 and 3/4, on my way to board a train to take me to Hogwarts.

Before I know it, there are familiar bells filling the air with their beautiful, steady tone — the same air that seems to be finding its way through my hair. I navigate my way to the edge of the platform, closer to the tracks, knowing exactly where the doors of the train would be before the train even stops. As I hear the annoyingly screechy brakes of the train signifying that the train is coming to a stop, I mentally note the compartment coach number to see if they match with any significant number in my life. Last four digits of my mom’s phone number, or my dad’s birthday. I don’t know. Just looking for signs from the universe, I suppose.

The infrastructure of trains is so mesmerizing because, in my eyes, they all look the same regardless of the time, platform, and location I grab them at. It’s crazy how they’re designed in a way that they work around each other. It reminds me a lot of ourselves. We’re the conductors of our own crazy trains, with turns that go left and right, and our own destinations to reach. Though we have our individual journeys, somehow the train has its way of finding itself at the very destination it needs to be. We find a way to fit in the passengers — the ones that matter to us. People hop in, people hop out. But you, the conductor must remain.

Regardless of the routes you take, you’re guaranteed the beautiful scenery or the seemingly minuscule buildings of a city from a distance. There are times your train is going slow enough for you to soak it all in and enjoy the view. And others, where it’s all going by so fast it’s a blur. Being busy feels good. Life, though, is not about “go, go, going” all the time. Patti Digh once said, “Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.” The best thing to do is to enjoy it all — the slow moments as much as the fast. And vice-versa. Bask in the exhilaration while taking a few seconds here and there to appreciate the speed and power of pure engineering of your own train.

Inevitably, you’ll be impressed by what you see when you look outside. We become so obsessed with finding objectively incredible views to look at that we often overlook the beauty that lies in front of us — the beauty contained within the train, in the people. We’re so used to seeing people everywhere that we rarely stop to recognize them as individuals. We cast ourselves as main characters within our own stories, and make everyone else our supporting and background characters. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just human nature. It’s easy to lose sight of people’s lives and realize that they have their own stories where they’re the main characters too.

John Koenig, the inventor of made-up-words for the emotions we feel, but are lacking solidified terms for, developed a word for this; sonder. As defined by Koenig, to sonder means “to realize that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own…in which you may appear only once. As an extra sipping coffee in the background. As a blur of traffic passing on the highway. As a lighted window at dusk”. John Koenig coins other powerful emotions into usable terms in The Dictionary of Obscure Emotions. This dictionary enables us to recognize the feelings we once felt but couldn’t describe and as a result turned a blind eye towards them. Not only does it fill a gap in the English language, but also our sentiments.

In this day and age, it’s hard to keep ourselves occupied without our phones or laptops. Once we realize that although we go on the same route at the same time daily, a new day brings new faces, and consequently, new stories to imagine. It’s a privilege to be able to sit in a seat and just observe people — watch them get on and off stops, read, talk, apply their makeup, and whatever else you can think of. It’s almost as though they’re putting on a special show, to which we got front row seats. And for free too! People are so fascinating. The snippets of conversations you overhear, their book choice, the way their legs are positioned, the resting expression on their face.

I board, I sit, I observe, I admire, and I wonder.

I wonder what time the lady across from me woke up to get her eyeliner so perfect. Should I tell the guy beside me that his suit is creasing from the way he’s sitting on the seat? Why hasn’t that girl flipped the page of her book for the past 15 minutes? I wonder what that guy is thinking about — he looks stressed and like he hasn’t slept in days. Why can’t the girl with the broken leg’s workplace just allow her to work from home? I want to know what the guy diagonal from me is watching — he looks very intrigued. Why did that girl switch her seat at 3 different stops? I like that dude’s watch — I wonder how long it took for him to pick out. That girl has kind eyes — I bet she bakes cookies for the neighbours.

For my own satisfaction, I make up answers and move on to my next thought. This, of course, doesn’t do the strangers justice, but if we weren’t sitting in the quiet zone of the train, I would’ve just asked. While I don’t hear their stories from the stranger themselves, I resort to making up characters in my head.

And before I know it, I’ve reached my destination. Time flies when you look around and place yourself as a background character in someone else’s main character story.

Take it from the red-haired boat dude himself. He dropped the wisest piece of advice in the intro of a song, and yet the only thing that stuck with everyone was getting an attainable girlie who doesn’t get likes on her Instagram. Nevertheless, take a second to consider this quote from a lighthearted, catchy banger.

“Look around, bro, look at life…Come on, man, you got so much more to appreciate” — Lil Yachty from “iSpy”

I hope you enjoyed a little time-travel to 2016. It’s always fun to come back to old music and realize the real meaning behind lyrics. Anyhow, Lil Yachty is right. It’s essential to appreciate the things we do daily. For me, it’s riding the train and finding the beauty behind that. It can be something entirely different for you. Just find that, and pay particular attention to things you usually overlook. Chances are you’ll find something worth admiring and wondering about.

Anyways, that’s it from me. Don’t mind me logging off to go jam to KYLE and Lil Yachty. 😉

Komal

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Komal Vachhani

Hey, I’m Komal. I like to put my thoughts on life into writing to reflect on later. Follow along for growth and more learnings!