Blossoming romances, bitter rivalries and fleeting poignancy. My trips on the Dubai Metro have all the drama of a television soap opera.
Six months in and I am hooked. Sure there is a financial reason to board the train every day. Riding the metro from home to Time Out Towers is Dhs40 cheaper than taking a taxi. I’ve already saved Dhs10,560, but there is more to it than that. Every weekday morning I turn up to watch people go through their lives and every evening I catch the rerun. Observing my fellow passengers and learning about their lives has become a hobby.
There is the man who spends the entire journey readjusting his tie. To and from work he touches his hand to his neck every 20 seconds. I think he may be a psychopath. Or there’s the lady who’s been reading the same romantic novel for 25 weeks now. I heard her say once she’s single. For a while there was a man with a Panama hat pulled low over his eyes on the Rashidiya line every morning. He stopped getting the train in January, I think ‘tie man’ may have killed him in a jealous rage over ‘book woman’.
I’ll spend more than 200 hours in the company of these people this year. That is more than I’ll see my family in England. The sad thing is I’ve never spoken to one of them.
The reason is not my co-travelers, it is me. For starters I only ever see them early in the morning (when I am yawning and my hair is still having a party from the night before) or at the end of a day’s work. Neither scenario has me at my effervescent best.
I am just very bad at small talk. I find a 15 second lift journey difficult, so being in confined spaces for 30 minutes with 100 strangers is nerve-wracking. The whole thing is made worse by the fact that my small talk skills are only matched by my inability to say nothing at all.
Unless I sit on my hands and stare at my feet I am prone to embarrassing myself. Take the time I was sleepily counting aloud the number of dots on a man’s tie. I got to 37 before I realised he was backing away in horror. Or the time I accidentally stood on three people’s toes within the space of a minute. Just how do you strike up a conversation after that?
Perhaps I don’t need to. With the money I’m saving I might just buy everyone in my carriage a Panama hat and we can avoid each other’s glances.
Will Milner is our online group editor.