Getting on the train and a young man asked me ‘was that a he or a she? I couldn’t tell’. ‘A she’ I said, and I was surprised, and found his openness refreshing. The man, about 20, and a young woman had been standing on the train platform in South London, talking about her segway – a little two wheeled self balancing electric scooter. He asked her how much it cost, and she told him how much he should pay for one. I was near them, and the man and I started talking as we got on the train. I think he was Indian, just arrived in England. He had the vibe of being surprised by a new place. I got the impression that talking to me, to a woman, so freely, was new for him – he kept looking surprised by our conversation, and looking around to see if anyone was looking at us talking. The rest of the train carriage looked jaded and tired in comparison to him and his energy.
We talked about the segway, I asked him if he wanted one. ‘No’ he said, ‘I need one. Because it’s fun, and because I’m young now, and if I don’t learn to play now then I won’t be able to do it when I’m older, isn’t it?’. ‘Wow’ I thought. A young man saying that being able to play is important for when you are older. Where did he get this concept? Would we all be better off if we thought like this, and acted upon it? There is a playful aspect to India, or at least that is how I found it when I went there. Lots of adults had a very playful manner, and maybe mentality. I am not really able to pin it down and describe it properly, but playfulness seemed to be part of everyday communication and behaviour for a lot of adults in the places I went to.
Our conversation stopped. I was tired after putting all my energy into a play session. I wished there was a seat free. A seat became free and the man sat down. Another seat became free after a little while, opposite the man, in between two dozing labourers. I sat down. When we got to Whitechapel, the train mostly emptied and the seats next to me became free. I started reading, an H.G Wells story about a scientist doing experiments to see if he can transport himself to another place using only mind power. The young Indian man walked across the carriage and sat down next to me. Without looking at me, he hunkered down, put his hood up and promptly went to sleep. I wondered why he came over to sit next to me, if there was some comfort or appeal in sitting next to me – people in London don’t generally do this on public transport.
Why did he think it’s important to be able to play when you are older? I wish I had not been so tired, and afterwards wished I was more comfortable to talk to a stranger in a crowded train, which I’m not, and had thought to ask him more about what he said. Maybe I was processing his statement, slowly, as I do. I think his words were wise. Maybe adults should make sure we talk to young people more, and listen to young people more, and all have a go at playing on a segway.