It's not really practice to wantonly eavesdrop on people, although I have been known to use my fellow passengers on the train into London as a source for my blog. Last evening, however, there was no way to avoid it.
The train was fairly full as I boarded at Surbiton, and I got one of the few remaining seats left. It was a rear-facing seat right at the front of the train. There were 16 seats in the area of the train ahead of the first doors and all but two were full. I took one of the empty seats and the train pulled out of the station.
For a few minutes, the car was fairly quiet. The conversation started innocuously enough. It was a droning discussion of how she was going to San Francisco on vacation although she never went the same place twice. He was going to miss her, though not so much as to want her to cancel her trip.
From here, free-ranged onto the people she gossiped about, what his opinions of her as a manager was, her feelings about kiss-up employees, his belief that we were running late on the scheduled journey, and other un-fruitful grist for my column. I was intermittently listening to their conversation (possibly dozing) when she said. "None of the clouds looks like anything! Do you remember when you were a kid and all the clouds seemed to look like something or other?"
"Sure then do." He replied. "That one there, for instance, looks like a cat. Or perhaps it's a squid."
"Which one? Where?" She asked. I could picture her leaning over him to look out the window.
"Right there!" He said; I was picturing him pointing at some random point in the sky.
"What? That big triangle? Nah! That looks more like a dog. But look there! A whale!"
"I do believe you're right! That is certainly a whale."
Casually, I glanced out the window… aside from a randomly amassed collection of water vapors made visible by the condensation driven by the changes in pressures and enhanced by the late afternoon convection, I saw nothing. Nothing was up there but a bunch of clouds. (Though, to be honest, one of them did sort-of look like a carnival serving of cotton candy!)
Their game went on for a while punctuated periodically with comments from her or him such as "Can you believe it? Here we are, two adults, playing 'see things in the clouds' as if we were school children."
I was about to lose interest again when he said "Look, that one there!"
"There! It looks just like an aeroplane!"
"My yes, it does." She responded, chuckling. "Look how well defined it is! And how fast the wind is moving it."
This brought their game to an end. He was pointing at a jet coming into land at Heathrow about twenty miles away. It was fun while it lasted, but then the train pulled into the station and we went our separate ways. They'll probably never know how their innocent, childish game inspired me to write this article. To them (should they ever trip across this): Thank You! I enjoyed it!
Wherever you are today, I hope that you'll take time to notice the wonders around you with child-like abandon!
Don Bergquist - 19 July 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK