Saturday, July 30, 2016


Travelling is an ordeal in which we as human beings need to pull together in order to urvive said ordeal with minimal trauma, and for the most part, we as human beings are quite good at recognizing in eachother our common humanity and dignity.

If you don't take proper security measures you have to stay in a lot of hostel dorms before you get robbed, even though your bags can be ripe for rifling through for months. You'd have to go to a lot of public events, more than most lifetimes before being effected by a terrorist attack (even with the recent upswing in Europe).

Which is to say humans are more often truly unlucky than they are vulnerable. Most people have no trouble being considerate.

And there are cultures where the line is drawn on a side I can't stand on, the Japanese for example, are anti listening to music on public transport through headphones. Fuck that, you like to nap on trains and demand NO background noise? I'm going to be a 'foreign barbarian' in these circumstances because I can't dignify the demands of a workaholic culture that demands office workers and students get their sleep on commutes.

Last week I took a train to Milan, they had cancelled the regional train meaning the intercity was packed with people (like me) with no reserved seats. It's a bit of a pain, but basically when someone comes with a ticket for the seat I'm occupying I jump up, because they've paid a premium for this train and that seat. Really I was fortunate to get to sit for half the journey.

But I wound up standing next to a mother and child in the aisle for about an hour.

The mother being italian made a seat for her 10 year old out of their luggage.

The kid was actually pretty cute for a 10 year old. Playing a nintendo ds that he couldn't keep himself from commentating and occasionally busting into the old spiderman theme song.

Here's the thing, his mum constantly told him off, or more accurately that it was 'enough' noise wise. Eventually when he couldn't bring himself to comply, she took the DS away from him and the kid to his credit did not bust into a tantrum like a true infant.

Flash forward to yesterday, and I was bussing it from Milan to Zurich, a lower class of transport with low low prices to match. A 4 hour trip blew out into a 7 hour one and nobody was outraged because that is what we had paid for afterall.

I got myself a window seat by virtue of some garbage human being leaving their garbage on the seat such that the 80% of passengers that boarded before me, passed over it. Alas the bus was full, which meant much as I hopedand prayed that the seat next to me was to remain empty, it was not going to be the case.

And of course, near last to board the bus were the butterballs. A trio of relatives who were approaching a stature of true roundness, short such that their girth made them more circular than fat. A mother and two sons whom I guesstimate were around 12 and 14 years old.

Despite a carb on carb diet with a side of carbs and a gelati chaser, it was actually super rare to see fat people or kids in Genoa, not so in Melbourne, where I'm told being overweight as a kid is now so common it is no longer grounds to be picked on. But given the last three months there was some novelty in seing a real life German exchange student Uter, and he was full of chocolate.

So first quandry is that in this life it is actually possible to wind up in a physical condition where one cannot help but encroach on the personal space of others and who is more at fault? The kid stuffed with wurstel or the draftsman that decided how wide seats need to be in this day and age?

Personally I don't feel, or want to live in a world where such a bus ride is something a person is expected to train for, to be match fit for. The moment this kids soft rolls settled into the chair and pushed me towards my window views of the Swiss mountains, valleys and lakes was the moment I recognized that this was such a time where we recognize our common humanity, economic pressures and that 'this too shall pass'.

I was unlucky. So were two other window seat holders that scored the other family members. But that's it. The butterballs are unlucky every single time.

Australian law is very clear, you can't discriminate based on anything people can't change, or can't change easily. Meaning not only is the colour or creed of a person a discrimination no-no, but being fat is too because you can't have a barber trim that off between now and next friday. Tattoos and piercings are another matter because these are generally self-inflicted in a much more deliberate and instantaneous way than weight gain usually is.

I know this, thus I wasn't all 'fucking fatty' so much as 'poor kid' but this reaction caused me some perplexedness.

For example, if it is true that childhood obesity has been normalised, does this kid actually suffer the adverse effects of being a fat kid, or is he now, just a happy little kid? I actually don't know if having to sit on the sidelines at school aths day is that big a deal anymore? If videogames have elbowed actual sport and play out of the picture, this kid could be a jock in todays videogame currency because he pwns noobs on smash bros.

Which in turn, I'm not for the way the little darwinian beasts known as 'children' handle enforcing societal norms by bullying the non-normal kids like fat kids, but at the same time, I'm not exactly okay with this kid being under the impression that he is just 'fine'.

Picking on the fat kid is a method children have been trying for centuries and the results in both weight loss and mental health are to say the least unimpressive. I guess the ideal would be if a kid could acknowledge they are overweight with the same cold emotion I acknowledge I am physically incapable of playing in the NBA, or getting older not younger. These realizations can motivate actions without having me burst into uncontrollable tears.

But Uter was unable to cope with boredom, or low blood sugar levels. And while I'm sure both were costly unpleasant states for him, the cost was imposed on me also.

I witnessed for my first time, what happens to a kid-these-days when deprived of internet connectivity. This kid quite literally did not know what to do. It couldn't occur to him to put his tablet away, so he dicked around furiously with trying to drag icons around on the screen, and trying to make a movie from the tablets photo album (not as creative as it sounds). At no point in the 7 hours did he conclude that his ipad was not going to happen. I know at his age, I barely had any tolerance for long road trips, our family got bookish (until we got car sick) but a tablet depending on wifi would be the equivalent of me packing a coloring book and discovering I had no color pencils, crayons etc. It would ruin my seven hour road trip, for sure. It's just far less likely to happen than being blindsided by no wi-fi access. Furthermore, the old analogue methods of distraction and entertainment are being forgotten, thus a kid is far less likely to be prepared for a long haul.

Simultaneously, atsome point in childhood I learned how to space out, how to entertain myself with introspection and imagination. One saving grace was Uter didn't try to sleep on my shoulder, for all his obliviousness to my personal space.

I notice a slight implication that I hold Uter responsible for not bringing a coloring book or anything not dependent on battery life and connectivity to pass time by. Which turns to Uter's mama. All I have is inference mind you, observations of behavior.

I feel Uter was the most annoying person to sit next to on the bus, but truth be told, his mum was the first to annoy me and the impression was formed before I ever saw them. I heard her first and knew instantly that here were those exceptional people who didn't recognize our common humanity and instead pursued their own relief oblivious to the sacrifices imposed on others.

I saw Uter's butt cleavage because his mother insisted he help adjust her seat. I saw her kids during a 7 hour trip eat half a large pizza each, bread rolls and salami, gummi bears, 1.25l of coke, some pastries stuffed with hotdogs and then during a pitstop break they loaded up on fanta and lollipops.

This was the ostensible provisions for a 4 hour bus trip, not presumably for the 7 I at least did not foresee. It is hard to extend to mama the benefit of the doubt, that this exceptionally poor diet was circumstantial to travelling, a treat, so to speak. My intuition was that this family was maintaining a functional life in the grips of a severe and psychologically hereditary addiction.

As in, this wasn't a 'treat' or cheat day, nothing, particularly not the fanta purchase indicated any particular concern about nutrition, or the adverse effects of a refined sugar no fiber diet.

And I don't eat healthy myself. At all, I just flatter myself that should I be responsible for children, and greater society, I would be quite hypocritical as to what I feed them as compared to what I feel fit for my own consumption.

To some extent I can credit rising living costs, two income household driven time poverty and social isolation as contributing factors, but nothing bar addiction for me explains the phenomena of parents feeding junk food to their kids through holes in a fence once Jamie Oliver takes over their school.

And speaking of British people, David Mitchell did a radio show on manners earlier this year that featured the role of primary education in socialising children, from completely ego centric to aware of others.

At what age do we stop cutting kids slack for being unaware of others? Toddlers can behave in ways that would get my beautiful face broken and we find it adorable and endearing. But at 10-12 years old we are heading into the quagmire of 'the slap' territory. My question is honest because I forget what I was like at 12 years old. Far more prone to blunders in selfish behavior  (and nobody ever gets cured completely of inconsiderate behavior) but at least intellectually aware of manners and politeness, aware even that strangers were to be respected, perhaps more so then than feared.

Given Uter's mother encouraged him to try and get off the bus before everyone else ie. Push to the front of the aisle, I have nothing to draw upon in defence of her having any sense of manners, or others.

Even adjusted for cultural differences, the butterball family appeared to be the people that make travel a dread worthy ordeal, of which the social contract foists harm-minimizing as the only viable course of action. It isn't a prisoner's dilemma game theory wise, and the rest of the passengers to humanities credit new that meeting inconsiderate behavior with more inconsiderate behaviour is how nobody survives a 7 hourr bus trip.

I just notice Milan train mum's ability to both cut her kid sufficient slack for being a kid while demonstrating if anything, too much consideration for her fellow passengers.

I titled this post butterballs, because I feel it no coincidence that we have three representing family members in rolly poly shape, just asit is no coincidence they were taking the cheapest scummiest form of transport with me, and no coincidence they were less considerate than the train going society. It's a causal web that chases itself around, but when it comes to human decency 7 hours later upon arrival at Zurich there were 6 armed police officers to greet me at the bottom of the steps, and greet me they didn't as I moved to fish out my passport, ignoring me completely and allowing me to open up the bus and grab my (or any bag I fancied with zero scrutiny) as they picked out a nice polite Arabic man to scrutinize his visa and submit to a pat down. Where I could only remark 'oh they are racially profiling'

I'm only going to second guess the work of European Union boarder control work in the current climate but go no further. But if Isis are producing model bus travellers perhaps they should be patting down Uter.

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