Smile, you’re on the 9 o’clock Saturday morning service to Amsterdam!

Imagine a weekday morning on a commuter train. Some people are quietly reading reports, typing on laptop keyboards, or simply sleeping . Some people stand, leaning against the seats, and gazing down at the train floor with their hands in their pockets. And some people make phone calls, usually about business issues or the kids and usually unimportant.

For the past seven years, I often travelled from Amersfoort to Rotterdam on such a commuter train. You get used to it. It becomes your workplace. It has in such a way, that when I was on an occasional leisure trip, I found myself looking for something to read or write, at least for something useful to do. Anyway, in most of the trains I take, there is a quite peaceful atmosphere.In most of them, not all.

For a couple of weeks, I am taking the 9 o’clock Saturday morning service to Amsterdam. I thought that trains could only be crowded on weekday peak hours, but the platform is packed. Once inside the train, where I have luckily found myself a place to sit, it does not take long before I realise that I have landed on another planet.

A little picnic starts in one corner of the coach, where people are bringing out their home-brewed coffee and are sharing some biscuits. They are in a pleasant mood, and discussing the world around them. ‘Did you know that the temperature dropped below zero last night?’ Kids are screaming: ‘Mama, we can sit here!’ ‘No honey, there are not enough empty seats, just walk on.’ Some people are groaning because they can’t find a place to sit. And so on.

I intended to listen to some violin concertos on the train. But the noise forces me to switch to Lenny Kravitz. This slightly annoys me, it is my day off you know.

But, my mood changes when I turn my head to the other side of the aisle. There sits a skinny man, wearing a bright blue pair of pants (I noticed him already on the platform because of the colour of these pants). Whenever something happens in the coach, whether hilarious or appalling, he smiles. Kids run through the aisle; he smiles. People can’t find their ticket; he smiles. Someone shuffles through the aisle, panting for breath; he smiles.

I am convinced. Smile, that is the best thing to do on the 9 o’clock Saturday morning service to Amsterdam.

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