January 30, 2007

Dilemma at North Gate

I commute by train from Lund Sweden to Noerreport Station in Copenhagen. In the old days Noerreport or North Gate was one of the passages through the city wall surrounding Copenhagen proper-- there are also stations at East Gate and West Gate. This is one of the busiest platforms in Denmark and it has the worst air; here's a picture of an air pollution measurement station run by some guys I know at Force Technology. Most of the air pollution comes from the exhaust of WWII-era diesel trains that run through every few minutes, in addition to airborne microparticles generated by their brakes. A typical visit to the platform is brightened by one or more of its live-in guests and water dripping through the roof.

Dilemma of the day: get home in time to take F to scouts. I get to the station, park and lock my bike, and take the stairs underground. A TV bolted to the ceiling says that my train is 20 minutes late and that none of the doors on the rear section of the train are working. This is good news because this train was supposed to have arrived 18 minutes ago, giving me two minutes to stroll to the other end of the platform where the doors will be working. When I arrive the voice of a young woman comes through the loudspeaker, barely audible, almost beyond understanding even to those who grew up speaking Danish. She says that this train, since it is so late, will only be going as far as the Central Station, where commuters to Sweden should change to another train. In addition, the next train to Sweden has reached East Gate and will be arriving at North Gate in 5 minutes.

The very first rule of commuting is that a train on the platform is worth much more than the promise of a train. There are more than a few things that cause trains at East Gate not to reach North Gate via the single track connecting the stations. For example it is widely acknowledged that there is a black hole that eats trains a few hundred meters east of the North Gate platform. I have taken the loudspeaker at its word before and while I lived to tell the story I vowed never to do so again. On the other hand if you get on the train at the Central Station with the rest of the herd there's no guarantee you'll get a seat, but if you get on at the station before that, that would be North Gate, you can take your pick.

Today I let the first train slip through my fingers and took a chance on the second train. This time it arrived and here I sit with a choice seat: nice view out the window, leg space and a little table to hold up my computer, thinking of those souls who took the first train to the Central Station and had to switch to this train where they now stand in the aisle, swaying, reading over my shoulder as I type.


At February 01, 2007 4:20 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

I bet there is a word for this feeling in German. The insecurity of not knowing which bus or train to throw your lot in with, followed by the secure feeling when you are settled into your seat on the train that is going to get you home in time.
die train-angst-zur-hygge-lust


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