Patrick Lenton is here to spice up your Sunday Night with his comic musings. Patrick Lenton is a writer of theatre, prose and comedy. He has just finished up his show 100 Years of Lizards as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. For more of Patrick’s musing check out his blog The Spontaneity Review.
Skynet’s terrifying caterpillar-horses, AKA the train.
From time immemorial, people have looked at that blue concave temptress known as the horizon and become daunted. It is not a small world, despite that moment when you meet your year eight maths teacher in the same brothel in Thailand. The world is large and notoriously difficult to circumnavigate. Distance, which the Latino’s named ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’, is a cruel overlord. Despite desiring to go to Finland, you probably cannot go to Finland all because of the tyranny of distance.
In mankind’s endless war against Distance, one of the deadliest blows struck was the
invention of trains. Trains ate up the landscape with all the ferocity of a dog licking peanut butter. Trains swallowed up people and bore them uncomplainingly to work, the beach and even Finland. Historians, if drunk, will sometimes admit that the success of trains led to other such triumphs as planes, hot air balloons and whales.
But much like that legless veteran outside of the liquor store, rich people avoid trains. Trains have become the domain of the stinking working masses. Packed into the carriages like cabbages in a cabbage-box, the despair and hatred of the passengers seeps into the trains. And now, these once noble industrial steeds are twisted, graffitied wrecks of what they once were. Chugging along painfully like arthritis-ridden snakes on a fun run, they manifest their pain by being constantly late, stinky and full of drunks. They cover themselves in graffiti and honk loudly at night. In the early hours of the morning they rest uneasily in large depots, plotting revenge.
On a train in Vietnam I once spent nine hours playing the card game ’500′ with five other
people. It was a filthy sleeper train, with hard bunks along the wall where this was supposed to take place. The first two hours slipped by easily, filled with learning the game, drinking beer and general banter. After the third hour, the game had taken on a competitive edge, the conversation turned to quips and jibes. By the fourth hour, there were already call backs to earlier jokes. There was a strange feeling of timelessness, of endless hands of cards, the never ending rattle of the train.
Around the fifth hour, confidences were being shared. We were told of lost loves and past
mistakes. A story shared between three of our fellow card players turned into a dispute, and we lost a player, storming off into the rickety train. A brief lull followed. I made my way again to the swaying stench bucket that passed for a toilet and sang loudly as I urinated. It felt right.
The sixth hour was sad, filled with silence and terse commands. Looking around the room,
at these people we’d only met a day earlier, I began inventing a scenario where I would fight them on a battlefield. Charging across trenches in France perhaps, I wanted nothing more than to bayonet them directly in the face and have them realise it was that guy they beat in Vietnam in that stupid, interminable card game. Oh yeah, and I’d been losing for many, many rounds.
The seventh hour was filled with a reckless mania, an enthusiasm that was as directionless
as it was annoying. The conversation consisted of repeated Simpson’s quotes and then cackling wildly. I began to win, buoyed on by a rising tide of absurdity. I saw my foes begin to falter under the deranged onslaught of my ability to draw connections between two, three and even four completely separate pop cultural references. I began amusing nobody but myself, but I was happy.
In the eighth hour, we had an enforced ten minutes of silence. Most of us giggled all the
way through it. The game was close to being won, and our patience all but gone. But I think we wanted to do it – we wanted to be able to say we finished the game. And it was around this time that I realised this card game, this nine hour long monstrous train ride was an analogy for life. But I was too tired to think it through. I think in some ways I’m still too tired to think it through, but I do know this. I have no memory of who won that game.