Earlier this month I bussed for 4 days to get to Latvia and back for some work with the British Council. I refused to fly after a polar bear appeared in a dream showing me a bar chart of carbon emmissions. This is what happened…
The 44 hour, Euroline E3792 Riga – London bus journey makes us remember what we value in life.
The solitude submerges you from the muffled hum of Bablylon, leaving us alone with ex-lovers, estranged family members and that time in year 10 when Dennis Gow accidentally groped our biology teacher’s breasts whilst blindfolded.
But after four and a half hours of lonely silence a strange Stockholm kinship grows. A lack of talking makes appealing the prospect of an awkward conversation with a Pole who shares no other language other than that of his humanity. It was brief but it was meaningful and left me embering in a warm glow of roadish comraderie. After a further 5 hours (and arrival in a Slavic town that contains frankly more consonants than is healthy) it became necessary for me to talk to a random Lithuanian. Again, it was brief, functional (mostly consisting of the words “toilet” and “over there”) but deeply, deeply significant
It had been a long day.
The journey through Northern Poland was noteworthy for its lack of anything of note, with two notable exceptions:
1) A sign outside a bus station ticket office that read ‘Busses for sale’
2) A sign on a service station doorway that read ‘
Night draws in. Euroline service E3792 leaks night time buslings onto service station forecourts in a state of elderly confusion. No one wanting to stray too far from the Mother Ship for fear that it leaves us, nor feeling too attracted to the British Petroleum’s spaceship food. It’s a curious stich that weaves a fleshly garment into these plastic inorganic seats. All different ages, shapes, colours, races – a temporal convention leads to circumstance to meeting, “is it worth us befriending?” say half smiles and abandoned glances. That moment when our courtyard circuits met and we both thought it – “shall I?”, “does she?”, “will they understand me?” Then the bus driver returns and we line back to our agreement of:
– Don’t talk beyond a cirtain decibelage,
– Don’t radiate each other with overhead lighting after 11pm
– Don’t leave the toilet door open
– Don’t rustle plastic bags too loudly
– Recline your seat with a sense of necessary and concerned foreboding
– Have others recline unto you as you would recline unto others and forgive them their trespasses.
There is a symphony of transcultural complexity to this succeeding and it does in my experience which is pretty fucking amazing. You see people are like words, it doesn’t matter where they came from. It just matters what they’re saying, what they do and how they help us.
As we drive through space and time in this mutating human genome, we babble incoherently from one mum to the next mum. The womb of our lexicon can be fertilised by anyone. Eggs imbibing millions of swimming commas punctuating journeys to life sentences of poetry in motion. Trace the page of our history and we all have common ancestry, neighbour hieroglyphics on some tapestry in Persia.
As we roll in static movement through the planes of Northern Poland, is this a marriage of mere convenience or an opportunity of some significance? What are you saying Service E3792? What does this human soup of past and future really tell us? Are we only brought together through shared departure and destination and a desire for better hot chocolate in motorway service stations? Or is there more than this? Can we not reach out and burst the bubble of this isolation?
It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that’s important! So let’s overcome the differences between Riga and Berlin, between Warsaw and Dusseldorf, between Cologn and London. Let’s prove that two world wars can’t leave a continent divided, that we are all words of equal importance to understanding this page that we inhabit. Let’s put down our crosswords and unplug our I Phones. I’ll even stop reading my 500 page people’s history of the English Civil Was and stop writing poetry and let’s join in solidarity around a collective understanding. Let us hold hands around this bus in the petrol forecourt chanting,
“We are all one mono-monkey, we are all one monkey, we are all on mono-macro, proto-turbo monkey. We are all one body”
In several different languages.