I was standing on the platform of Bayreuth station yesterday morning. I’d arrived a little early, partly because I didn’t want to miss my train and partly because I’d finished my breakfast by eight. It gave me a chance to walk it off.
I was standing on platform two, along with another man who had some timetables set out on the bench behind him. I thought he was a train spotter.
As you can imagine, with a person who stands still for long enough, they find themselves in conversation with me. I was wondering what he was up to, and he was happy enough to tell me that he was counting passengers. He went on to say that the numbers were extremely low: this for a railway station with two connections to Nürnberg every hour and hourly connections to a variety of other places including Eger (Cheb) in the Czech Republic.
Even with all this potential for travel, the more than reasonable fares and offers, not to mention the levels of comfort in a modern train, the people of Bayreuth simply weren’t interested.
I must admit to having been part of this, I’d only made one trip out of the city, to Coburg. But then, I was a visitor and one who had come with the express intention of seeing Bayreuth.
So the German railways are doing everything they can to compete with the car, price, timings, speed, you name it. And the good people of Bayreuth choose to stay at home.
It was at that point in the conversation that I mentioned my friend Hendrik. He lives in Utrecht and works at one of the universities in Amsterdam. His routine is to travel from home to work and back again. He will visit friends in his neighbourhood if asked, or just stay at home and watch TV or videos.
At which point, the gentleman mentioned that his girlfriend spent her free time watching videos. I suggested to him that videos provided a person with all they needed in terms of entertainment, and the railways were in for a tough time if they were going to compete with the very thing a person wants most in their life.
And gives it them with so little effort.
We live in a world where computers and the ancillary technology are seen not only as natural, but the future. It’s the best excuse in the world for indulging in the very thing that humans should be putting to one side. And yes, I watch videos on my computer, and I am writing this. But I was down on my allotment half an hour ago and came back for some breakfast.
Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. It allows me to wallow in the delights of what computers have to offer us in our modern day and age. At least it is a conscious excuse.
Brian, my ex partner who lived in Lüneburg, was utterly unaware of his addiction to videos. He thought it entirely natural that he should watch a stream of interesting videos late into the night. His comfort zone was the TV chair in front of his telly and the coffee machine by the kitchen window. Ten square metres would see ninety percent of his day’s waking activities. It didn’t matter to him if it was that small, he didn’t need anything more.
That he was utterly dependent on electricity and the finer points of computer software meant nothing to him whatsoever. That to him was progress, and that was for him to enjoy.
Along with countless others who only break their chosen routine because of the demands of their boss. If this happens to need a train journey, then so be it. But the average European doesn’t think in terms of trains when it comes to entertainment. Most sit by their computers and enjoy all that life can bring them.
They, like Brian, don’t need anything more, do they?
Only when it comes to doing something for themselves, that’s when the acid starts to bite. The entire point of this kind of entertainment is that they don’t have to do anything. Anything at all! Everything is done for them: the bills are paid automatically, they can even set the heating to automatic so that they are in a perpetual summer, be it the deepest mid winter. Their comfort is complete and it takes no effort.
Brian was a revelation for me. The last time we met in Naumburg, he’d mentioned that “there’s nothing here for me”. It didn’t take me long to realize that there being nothing there for him really meant “there aren’t any TV screens in the marketplace to keep my mind occupied whilst I enjoy a coffee”.
Which is the point: when a person has let their mind ‘go to seed’ as it were, they need to stop the babble somehow, and if it’s not being asleep or doing their job, it has to be something that fits the bill. The most important point here being that they don’t have to do anything about it.
They can flop themselves down in their settee with a coffee and push a button. That is what life is for many adults here in Europe. And, as mentioned, they literally don’t need anything more. The concrete walls of their seventh floor flat fall away and their mind is filled with all the wonders imaginable.
The problem is, as Brian found out, when there isn’t any access to this, they find that they desire it above everything else and nothing can get in between. That last meeting we had, Brian had been outside of his ‘envelope’ for a little over 24 hours.
And it showed!
He really needed to get home, he really couldn’t think of anything else to do… he was so desperate to get home he was at the point of shaking.
As for me, after I’d pitched my tent, I cycled to Schulpforta where Friedrich Nietzsche had gone to school.
Which is what the German railways really need if they are to improve passenger numbers at Bayreuth.Or anywhere else, for that matter.
The Subconscious: Links To Other Parts In This Series.
Part 1 Why Some Africans Can’t Count Beyond Three.
Part 2 Doctor Jazz, Düsseldorf.
Part 3 Letting The Lizard Drive!
Part 4 The Lizard Brain Meets Its Match: Brian’s Fiat Panda.
Part 5 Snow White And The Railways.
Part 6 Enemies In The Boardroom.
Part 7 The Clock Ticks: The Unconscious Threshold. (Published on my private blog)
Part 8 Milena Sees Witchcraft Everywhere.
Part 9 Frustration!
Part 10 What’s On Mina’s Mind Today?
Part 11 A First Peek At Autism.
Part 12 A Railway Waggon At The Roots Of Dementia?
Part 13 What’s It Like In There? Life With Dementia… (Published privately)
Part 14 The Evidence For Dementia.
Part 15 The Trouble With Alzheimer’s.
Part 16 The Man On Platform Two.