November 28, 2010 by jessperriam
A few months ago I attended a travelography course (that’s travel writing and photography, for those who don’t meld words so well) in Fremantle. It was one of those courses where almost everything you hear or see is gold and it is so, so valuable.
Our group of twelve or so were challenged from the get-go.
“How did you get here today?” one of the instructors asked.
“How many of you got here by car?” That was most of us – Perth is nigh on hideous to navigate without one. I’ll admit I was one of them, but I was also sporting a hospital ID bracelet and yellow antiseptic stains (another story for another time) that day.
“How many of you took the train or the bus?” A few lucky people close to public transport connections made good use of it.
“How many of you walked here?” he asked. Very few, if any of us walked.
“The point I’m trying to make here is that if you’re travelling by car, you don’t interact with people, you don’t notice local customs as much as if you caught public transport or walked.”
And that’s just it – environmental concerns aside – travelling by car is socially harmful. You’re not interacting with anyone, or at least not in a meaningful way. Road rage is not a meaningful social interaction.
Notice how very few sitcoms have lengthy scenes in cars?
There are scenes in taxis, or trains or planes (some great moments happen in planes – debate and discuss) because things happen, people are forced to interact, conflict happens.
But mostly public transport is a great place for people watching.
Had I not taken the train to and from work, I would never have met the man who has the City of Rockingham logo tattooed on his backside as a symbol of pride of where he hails from. True story.
Nor would I have met an American-New Zealander who planted the seed of doing what you truly love in life.
But back fake life (we never really arrived, did we?), funnier things happen more often to pedestrians – there is more opportunity to bump into someone, spill a drink on them, apologise profusely, get their number… oh hang on, I’ve just described a quarter of the plot of Notting Hill.
Oh bloody hell, ditch the car, get socially fit. Class dismissed! Next time we’ll talk catch phrases.
Disclaimer: Cars can have limited use. Mostly when there are a few passengers. Especially when there’s a road trip involved.