Shauntelle Benjamin

A View From Moving Windows actor and all around wonderful person Shauntelle Benjamin has written us a blog post!!

Woodford next stop. Passengers please remember that the last carriage and the first carriage is gunna be a quiet carriage. Please leave the other passengers in peace…

I live in the Blue Mountains. I work in Sydney’s CBD. I perform and create art everywhere, and I’m studying Psychology as a distance student.

All photos by: Shauntelle Benjamin

When I say I live in the Blue Mountains, I mean I live in trains. At least for now. With A View From Moving Windows and work, I’m on the train roughly 25 hours a week. That’s 25 hours of watching the day go past, of seeing dogs being walked, children going to school, romances being formed, cars zipping along a highway, clouds swirling and people playing on their phones. Phones that cut out EXACTLY when you need to remind your boyfriend to take the laundry out of the washer and hang it out to dry.

So I see a lot. I hear a lot. Sitting in the quiet carriage to write this, I hear a man behind me tap on his keyboard, a phone unexpectedly ring and a passenger dive for it, the train chug over tracks and toot to remind people not to use the crossing while the train goes past. I hear that high-powered whine that comes with fast movement, the vibration underfoot, underbum that comes with any movement. 

And I see. As I travel, I see through moving windows. If you’ve ever been in an airplane flying across Australia to get to your destination, and you’ve had a window seat, you’ll understand the view I get. Crossing the country by plane you see Sydney city, beautiful bushland, red desert, glowing rainforests and weaving beaches. I go from a rural location to a city one every day – the green of the mid mountains, the cut out crevices of the gorges to get the train through (reds, yellows, greens) the plains and their houses spread out before me, the city, so far away, then the concrete jungle of Parramatta and Sydney city, sucking me in, making me feel small.

Bless you. Need a tissue?

Snot.

There’s a lot to be said for traveling for two hours to get somewhere. You have time to contemplate life, the world, everything. Time to listen to music and observe humans. Time to be still, which in this day and age is very difficult. We seem to have a NEED to be moving, and if we’re not moving, our sense of self worth is somehow damaged because everyone else is moving. We rush here and there and we never stop and breathe. Our head to the ground, just getting where we’re going, because we’re late. I never used to be running late when I was a kid. I’m sure of it. I used to count the cracks in the ground, jump over them, look at cars and get jostled by trains while I stood.

It’s like someone’s put a music track on, then leaned on it by mistake and pressed fast forward.

I’m very guilty of studying on the train, of watching tv and listening to music and ignoring everyone and everything until I get to my destination. I think that’s fine. Sometimes we do want our own little bubble of space, like the woman sitting across from me now with her headphones in and eyes closed. She’s not asleep, and she looks stressed, which isn’t good on a Monday morning. I fantasize about sitting beside her, asking if she’s ok, if she would like to move away from the first carriage and talk. Is there a call for that? A train psychologist that sits with you and just listens. Maybe so. If we all just sat and listened, would we hear a group mind? Would we hear people freaking out and sobbing or raging or loving or lusting or just being?

Glenbrook is the next stop, Glenbrook.

Is that perhaps why we all sit apart, because to sit close together would mean that we can hear and feel everything everyone feels? Are we all empathic? I know we take on each other’s emotional states. It’s why we come together to celebrate, or grieve. It’s easier when you know someone’s with you. Maybe we need to split carriages, not into quiet and sonic, but into

Bless you. Hay fever? Yeah. It’s a bit like that.

But into emotional states. The excited carriage can be as loud as they want. The exhausted carriage can sleep, the entertained carriage can play games and music and maybe the heartbroken carriage can find new love.

It’s breakfast time now. I had pizza (yum) someone else has banana bread and really good smelling coffee. Apparently Blacktown’s where it’s at for coffee today.  I saw my family of kangaroos today. There are a lot of them. I tried to get a picture for you, but they were quite far away. Being a Brit, hopping on a train and seeing Roos casually hanging out near a grove of trees in a relative city is pretty amazing.

Westmead next stop. In an hour I’ll be at work, a faceless, nameless drone in a city full of faceless nameless drones that scream out in protest to the forced anonymity of their existence.

It’s not that bad, but it feels that bad sometimes. So many people, some of whom I’ll never know, some I’ll see every day while commuting, some I’ll never speak to but will always wonder and some I’ll unexpectedly connect with in a brief moment of – dare I say it – passion and excitement.

Trains are pretty miraculous, when you think about it.

Doors closing. Please stand clear.

I see a lot. The Saree shop. 8076. Jacaranda trees. Living in style furniture. Same same. Total tools. Instant cash. Granville. Auburn mosque. It’s going to rain.

I hear a lot. I wish you could hear what I hear. I can at least show you some of what I see, but there’s no camera that can show you the way I see it. When I left home, everything was glittering, bright, beautiful, shining. I live above the clouds. Come down, come in. The clouds are heavy and thick and threatening. And I forgot my umbrella. Well, I remembered it, but I don’t have it. Damn.