So I’ve had two weeks off from work–off from my day job, anyway, the one I get paid for, although time off from that can be work too, especially when there are holidays to be celebrated, and this year with both Christmas and New Year’s Eve falling on consecutive Wednesdays, or, in the case of the latter, Wedneseve, there was a lot to be done in the first part of the week and a lot of recovering as we fell over the hump into the weekend.
Anyway it’s back to work now, back to my desk for another forty hours of whatever it is that I do, but that doesn’t mean other things have to come to a stop. I have dual monitors on my desk–it seems like most people do these days, or at least most people I work with or know. Sometimes I need both monitors if I’m taking information from a spreadsheet and putting it into a database, or taking information from a database and putting it into a program. And sometimes I don’t need that second monitor and it just sits there. Actually it doesn’t just sit. Sometimes I use it to set out on a train ride. Maybe you’ve seen the “slow TV” videos you can find on YouTube, and if you have you’ve probably seen the ones that are train journeys that unspool in real time. Most of the ones I’ve found are Norwegian, although the interesting thing is how much a trip across parts of Norway looks like a trip across parts of Tennessee–right up until the train goes around a bend and past a fjord, anyway. And since the journeys unfold in real time and also the cameras are mounted on the front of the trains, giving a view that normally only the conductor would see, it can be funny to watch the train go into a long tunnel and then there’s just several minutes of pure darkness, and sometimes I wonder why the light at the end of the tunnel is blinking, but that’s another story.
I’ve always liked trains even though I don’t get to ride them nearly as much as I’d like to. Several years ago my wife and I went to the resort in French Lick, Indiana, for a dog show, and the best part of the trip for me was getting to ride an antique train from French Lick through the Indiana State Forest to the nearby town of Cuzco, which made French Lick’s population of just around three-hundred people look small, but that’s another story.
There really is something special about train trips. In The Poetics Of Space Gaston Bachelard speculated about their use for creating “dream houses”, and said,
An excellent exercise for the function of inhabiting the dream house consists in taking a train trip. Such a voyage unreels a film of houses that are dreamed, accepted and refused, without our ever having been tempted to stop, as we are when motoring. We are sunk deep in daydreaming with all verification healthily forbidden.
Yeah. That touches on two things: the impossibility of stopping wherever we want and also the fact that passengers on a train are free to watch, to imagine, to let our minds wander. And somehow being an imaginary traveler helps me focus on whatever it is I do.