Last week I was shocked by something I didn’t hear on the
bus. That is to say, I didn’t hear a thing. And it was a very busy bus, jam
packed with people on their way to work – so busy that several of us were
standing in the aisle. And yet, for the entire 15 minute duration of my short
commute into Newcastle, I didn’t hear one conversation. Not even a monologue ,
no giggling schoolgirls, no crying babies or shushing parents. The silence was
only broken by the creaks and moans of the bus itself, and the feint tinny
jangling of someone’s headphones.
And it really bothered me. I’m not sure why, or even if, I
should be so irked by this. I mean, some people would no doubt love to have
such a peaceful and calm carriage to work. But I hated it. I’ve travelled on quiet buses before, but
never on one so full and yet so silent. I found myself wondering if this was a stereotypically
British thing- I couldn’t imagine this
scenario happening in New York, Delhi or Paris.
Of course, I also couldn’t help thinking that it is simply a
sign of these digital times – times when we are so busy communicating with our
vast social networks that we can’t possibly spare the time or the energy to
converse with those around us. And before you accuse me of being some middle
aged fart of a Luddite, I must reject at least the last part of that
description. I love my smartphone as much as the next man, possibly more, given
the amazing access it gives me to stuff that would previously have been simply
out of reach of me and my dysfunctional eyes. However, it’s nice occasionally
to turn to that next man and discuss last night’s TV with him, or the football
results, the weather, the state of the
roads, or whatever.
As a blind person I have grown accustomed to the sinking
realisation that occurs when I work out that I’m talking to someone whois not there. I guess it is just going to happen
more often now, even when I know they are sitting right beside me. So, I’ll
keep quiet like everyone else.