Friday, October 14, 2011

Intermission, Entry 6

I like train stations. A few universal stories get played out again and again in endless variation.

The young lovers saying goodbye. She was leaving; the man had his bike with him, and wore a neon green strap on his right pant leg to keep it out of the gears. It clashed with his fresh red sneakers. They stayed talking at the train door until the train began moving. He kissed her while running sideways and then pushed his bike off the platform, wearing that face men make when they're trying not to show any emotion.

The people late for the train. There's always a few. Businesspeople, students, families, backpackers, tourists, street vendors, etc. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don't. Some are nearly frantic with worry, while others wander in the direction of the platform with not a care in the world even though I can see the guard with her whistle in her mouth about to send the train off.

Parents sending off children. The weirdest take on this I've seen so far was the grandmother sending off her grown grandson. She had her iPad out and was recording the whole thing. How can you say goodbye to someone when you have a big piece of plastic between you and them?

I wonder if the platform guards are ever tempted to blow their whistle and then hop on one of the trains themselves. They see these people leaving, day after day, but never get to go themselves. It's like a less morbid version of the river Styx boatman.

Barcelona Franca is everything that a train station should be. The main hall is in grand Neo-Classical style, with high vaulted marble ceilings and a thick wooden row of ticket counters. Outside, the train shed is surrounded on three sides by rows of stone arches, and it is covered with a double row of delicate iron and glass arches. The tracks curve away to the left, and the city of Barcelona is visible behind a stand of sweet smelling conifers.

Unfortunately, it is being passed over by the subterranean station at Barcelona Sants. Sants has all the charm of New York City's Penn Station, which leaves it somewhere between my old middle school and a prison in terms of architectural sophistication. Isn't that always how it goes? The pretty stations are the ones that never get used.

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