Well, children and long train rides can be an explosive combination. And children in a quiet zone on a train – even more so. Our guest author D. went on a journey (this time without her children) and here comes, what he observed:
Four hours on a train – in a quiet zone
When I am travelling on a train, I almost every time book a place in the quiet zone. Particularly when it‘s a longer journey. Sometimes I just want to read or take a nap, sometimes I need to work and write stuff, but mostly I just want to take the time to think, watching the landscape passing by.
And yes, I am being honest: Being a single mum I enjoy that alone time. Just me and my thoughts!
But often enough a quiet zone has different meanings to other people: Loud conversations on the phone and face to face and more fun things. Seems like especially business people tend to make reservations in the quiet zone to entertain everyone else with work calls. But at least it‘s quiet enough for them, so they can talk on the phone.
And then there are the children. Two days ago I had to travel again and there were Nina* and her mum. Nina is 10 years old and she is sitting next to me with her mother.
‚Nina is a very lively child‘…. at least this is what I thought at the beginning of that train ride.
She is unpacking her coloring books, pens, some snacks, a book and her new smartphone, which was an Easter present. Yes I know that now, just like every other person on that train.
A few seats away we have Felix and his mum (let‘s just call him Felix, just like we call that girl Nina). Felix is 8 years old, he told me. Just like Nina, Felix has his magic bag with wonderful travelling utensils: Nintendo and headphones, sweets and a book.
So, the train starts to move and our journey begins.
Nina is getting her coloring book and the pens. In a really loud and cheery voice she explains all the different colors to her mum. The pens are new. I have to smile, when she starts coloring enthusiastically. But 10 minutes later she has lost interest in what she was doing.
„Mum, I am so bored! Mum, you have to play with me! “
Ok, her mum starts to draw funny figures with Nina and further 10 minutes of the 4 hour train ride are saved.
In the meantime, Felix is getting comfy in his seat, puts on the headphones and starts to play on his Nintendo. As soon as it gets too noisy, his mum is asking him to turn the volume down, in a nice and gentle voice.
Nina and her mum have been chatting about Easter now, for 30 minutes nonstop, for everyone to hear. Yes, the new pens are nice! And what on earth could we do now? The mother suggested a walk through the train, stretching the legs a bit. (‚Oh, yes PLEASE!‘ I thought) But Nina wasn‘t in the mood for a walk, walking is so boring.
„Nina, you can read for a while.“
„NO! Reading is so boring! Play something with me, mum!“
„But you have a new smartphone. Take a look at that!“
Nina wasn‘t impressed. She picked up her new smartphone, found Google on it and told her mum which apps she needed to download. „Those apps are vital for my life! “ OK…
When her mum didn‘t react, as she tried to read, Nina decided it was time to search the internet for sexually transmitted diseases and started to read out loud about syphilis.
One hour of four on that train has passed at that point.
Felix is cuddling with his mum, asking for a snack in a hushed voice. I like Felix, a lot!
Nina now thinks that syphilis is a rather boring subject to indulge in. News are boring in general, she declares. A „Mum, I am sooo bored“ in an elevated tone proves to be successful and her mum is taking a memory game out of her bag, followed by a game of UNO. But always interrupted with Nina letting her mother and the world know: „Mum, I am so bored. Do something! “
Felix is still sitting quietly, cuddling up to his mum, reading a book.
Nina‘s mum is allowing herself a break now. She is clearly exhausted – but Nina doesn‘t like that idea very much. So she is picking up two empty plastic bottles, using them as drums, again and again. 10 minutes later she was still enjoying what she was doing, but by then my head was exploding. Of course, playing drums wasn’t enough. She had to comment on what she was doing, in a loud and clear voice, like she was doing for hours.
„Mum, you are so S-T-U-P-I-D! “
Spelling seems to be something, she can do very well.
Her mum doesn‘t show a reaction to the „stupid“comment. I am thinking about what I would do, if one of my children would call me stupid. And was it the first time Nina called her mum stupid?
Nearly four hours with Nina and her mum in the quiet zone and one thing I really need now: Some peace and quiet.
Felix and his mum having a conversation, I could barely hear them. They are looking out of the window. The sun is shining and there is so much to see for Felix.
Finally! The journey ends. I am grabbing my suitcase and walk to the exit, passing Linus. I just heard his name before and never really saw him. This is why he wasn‘t mentioned up till now. But now, that I can see him licking the window like it is the most delicious ice cream in the whole wide world, I secretly wish I would have noticed him much earlier. The journey could have been even more interesting.
I know, the next time I will book a seat in the quiet zone, I will certainly hope for someone like Felix and his mum sitting next to me. Maybe then I can enjoy the sun and the landscape or read a book.
PS: I am not a „ssshhhh“person. And a train is not a Buddhist monastery. But in a quiet zone there are limits.
And what are your children like on a long train ride? Let us know!