The thing about repetitive, quotidian behaviour is the seeming sense of permanence, of things always remaining constant. You see this especially as a commuter where you get up at the same time, perform the same actions to get ready, make the same journey to the station, pass the same people, stand in the same place on the platform, sit in the same carriage with the same people, do the same things on the journey, get off at the same platform and pass the same people as you walk to work.
Example: I know as I leave my house around 7:36 I will pass at the intersection a group of four kids, two on scooters, as they head towards school. After twenty seconds, they will go one way and I another. This has been happening for months now. And yet I know, that this glad happy morning – for them – will end and end very abruptly in one, two years never to happen again. And although I may walk the same route, I will never come across this foursome again.
How many groups of happy, singing, shouting children have I passed in a work career going all the way back to pre-history? Thousands. Maybe I sit amongst them as I write this on my commuter train. Maybe some achieved their youthful dreams they carelessly chatted about on those mornings when they crossed my path. And maybe some didn’t. Maybe most didn’t.
So, it’s with sadness that I see school kids on my commute every day. It reminds me how very temporary everything is, even things that seem forever permanent. So very quickly it all ends and then never happens again. Like friendships. Or your children at various ages (Slipping Through My Fingers describes this perfectly).
I’ve also mentioned this in the past in relation to buildings. How the sense of permanence hides, in fact, a constantly changing landscape and bit by bit, brick and mortar, things set in stone crumble like the happy group of school children or the person next to you on the station, who you smile at for ten years and then, suddenly, is gone.