Every morning, I wake up, brush my teeth and then scramble to get out in time to catch the 7.15 tube to London's Canary Wharf. A delay of even a few minutes or an attempt to snooze the alarm and lie in bed for those few extra winks could mean that I miss a 7.45 AM meeting at the office. Worse yet is that I could enter the meeting room late, and be one of those individuals that has everyone's eyes turn to him on entering the room... And not in an admiring fashion whatsoever, I can tell you!
The tube ride is a 20-minute journey down to the office... 22 minutes to be precise, given how important every second is so early in the morning. The journey gives me a chance to either catch up on my sleep or those few extra winks that I missed out on earlier in the morning, or it gives me a chance to people watch. I usually buy the Financial Times, but after reading the Opinions section pretty much tune out (I wonder if that's a sign of some kind). The other two alternatives seem more appealing at this time of t he morning anyway.
Not only do you get to see people of all shapes, colors and sizes, but you also get to see all kinds of mannerisms of people. You see the sleepy ones (I'm sure someone else would be thinking the same about me on occasion); you see the hyperactive ones (hard to imagine early in the morning, eh?); you see the busy ones - typing away on their smart phones or sifting through heaps of papers; you see the odd one picking his (or her, let's not be sexist here now either) nose completely oblivious to their surroundings; and you also see the ones like me that are just content to sit there and observe the others... Or reflect on their lives, the reason for this journey or a host of many other possibilities (if only we could see what people were thinking... that train ride would be so much more fun).
What strikes me in all this though is one simple fact. No matter the nature of the person, or their behavior, rarely do I see a smile from anyone on the train in the morning. There are frowns, there are creased foreheads, but no show of those pearly whites. I wonder why? Is it just too early to smile? Are people still not fully awake? Are they afraid they haven't brushed their teeth well enough that morning? Is it just that they're already thinking about work and the day that lies ahead of them...? In this day and age of technology, with the Blackberry (and therefore work) pervading nearly every waking (and not so awake) moments of our lives, there are no surprises at work; you already know what's in store for you. Maybe the element of surprise was a good thing; maybe people would be less grumpy on the train, if it weren't for their phones! Or would they?
That said, the realization of how dreary it actually is hits me as I step off the train at the Canary Wharf station. Hordes of people pile out of the train at that one stop, as if guided by a singular force or command. Still no smile! These people are lining up for the escalator now; those last few precious minutes of freedom before they are sucked in to that blackhole called the office... Before they vanish into oblivion for those next 8, 10, 12... 14 (Geez, I hope not mate... What are you thinking???) hours! Maybe that's why I haven't witnessed a smile in those 22 minutes. And then it hits me; this reminds me of a processing line... Only, it isn't a processing line of Model T cars in Henry Ford's factory. No sir; it is a processing line akin to one that takes lambs (or cows, take your pick) of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds to their ultimate destination... A steak on our plates. It is no wonder then that smile remains hidden through those 22 minutes... The movie was after all called The Silence of the Lambs...