A train ride
Whatever one feels about the US, its politics (disastrous at times), its excesses, its obnoxious and macho behaviour as a world power, it is hard to deny how colourful the Americans are. Colourful in the sense of uninhibited, think opposite of the proper and reserved Europeans, Japanese and Chinese, or most any other land in the world but for the Caribbean and Africa. Hmmm, it must be the African connection that I am zeroing on, and it is a fact that the jolly train conductor singing – belting out a song as he checked our tickets and heaving his heavy frame in a skip and jump like a Swiss ball-shaped jumping bean on the way to Washington is a descendant of Africans. I refuse to say African American to describe blacks in the US, because it is nonsensical as nomenclatures go. If one thinks about it, only Native Americans are a real distinct category in the US, everyone else should be classified as “other”. If African Americans are a separate category, then we should have European Americans, Indian Americans, Asian Americans, and Australian Americans – are you getting my drift? For who exactly are the American Americans, there are so many colours, races, religions and ethnicities making a mini-world right here in this great Yankee land that trying to segregate the Americans into categories is like trying to separate molecules in a rainbow. So many shades of skin colours from so many mixtures of human interactions have resulted in a mass of humanity expanding in corporal size and global outreach. The richness of the American experiment was and still is due to the diversity of its communities, beliefs and cultures that have been successfully put together into one (ok it is not great as experiments go, but show me where it worked better elsewhere).
After having lived in Switzerland for the past ten years, with the austere propriety of train conductors and other employees in uniform, it comes as a breath of fresh air to have a happy conductor singing and dancing on a train. Call me sentimental but it is a very cute thing that happened on my train ride and it touched me deeply. Everyone laughed in the carriage, exchanged looks and smiles, with the exception of a very serious-looking rabbi who greatly disapproved of the commotion, but then again, rabbis – as most men of the cloth – are not known for their tolerance and excessive humour. But hey, it was fun watching it all, the happy musical diversion, the reactions, the stares and the genuine joy on the face of the star of the show. I am thinking of catching our guy on arrival to get his photo as a reminder that happiness can be found in the unlikeliest of places, and should be cherished when one comes face to face with it, no matter what the social norms and rules dictate.
I didn’t have to stalk my dancing conductor; he posed and smiled, like it was going to go down any other way. The man was born to be happy.