I was relieved to find a spot to rest while waiting for the train to arrive, carrying a new stash of library books and a box of mooncakes to enjoy and savour through the weekend.
Girl: “Miss, excuse me, I want to go to Orchard station.”
Me: “You aren’t on the correct side. The train to Orchard leaves on the other platform”.
Girl: “Miss, my friends, I don’t know where they are. And my phone is out of credit balance and I can’t call them. Can I borrow your phone?”
At this point, I was immediately filled with suspicion. No, I’m not proud to say this, but what with news of people borrowing your phone to call a friend that turns out to be a million miles away, raking up huge phone bills. Or those that borrows your phone and then runs away with it. I sized her up. She looked younger and thinner than I was. I probably could outrun and scream louder than her.
I asked for her friend’s number (a local number), keyed it in. No ring tone.
Girl: “Can you help send a SMS to them? Tell them where I am? I am new here and I don’t know where this is.”
Me: “If your friends do not turn up, do you know how to go home?”
Girl: “I think so.”
I brought her to the map of the whole train system and messaged her friend in the meantime. Her friend called. He was in Orchard station. I brought her to the correct train platform and she went on her way, and me, mine.
In (short) time, I’m sure, she’ll figure out how to navigate our train system, like what we do day-in, day-out. Without a second thought. Knowing or feeling exactly how many minutes the train has travelled before our destination. Every instance familiar, routine. Ennui.
And that’s probably why I love travelling, I think. To be in an unknown city, to explore and to learn even the most mundane, that of navigating a new subway/train system. Putting a thought in every step.