Witching Hour

s-l300The witching hour was nearing to cast its spell on the night under the aegis of Artemis, the goddess of the moon, and the passengers on the last train to East Ventura were inwardly invoking the power of Patience for a high hope for a low heaven – they all just wanted to go home after a hard day’s work, and no more. These aggregates were all bound by the same fate of being held up as hostages to the less practical and more unnecessary delay due to their inapt handling of one unruly passenger on board at Moorpark Station. The force of one unruly passenger carried the aggregates over the edge of their collectively simulated sanity and suspended their precious time to be spent at home. This nightly act of daily drama in the life of a commuter was in fact a repertory regularly put on stage by a company entitled Metrolink. It was performed yet again last night for an hour. Without Applauds, of course.

Since I moved to California last October from New Jersey following the footsteps of the nineteenth century emigrants from the East to the West via mules-driven wagons on the Oregon trail, I have been trying to make myself adjusted to the Californian way of life in every sundry aspect. But the most Promethean challenge to overcome is commuting to and from work via train, and my whole life now seems to be run by train schedules operated by Metrolink, the Southern California’s commuter railway company. It takes about three good hours round trip to and from Union Station in Los Angeles without delays, so basically my free time after work during weekdays is to be spent on the train without much personal time at home in the evening. Let’s say the commuting time is agreeable at will due to my economic activities, but any such delays, including the aforesaid and waiting for an Armtrek train to pass by on the trails for about thirty minutes, are hard to receive my magnanimous understanding. And it seems that the last East Ventura bound train in the evening is set for giving me a series of trials by ordeal that I need not anymore. Woes to those who are already burdened with the yoke of needs.

Call it a commuter’s blues or soliloquy, but whenever I am faced with another ordeal of habitual delay that seems to become part of my Immigrant Song in the Wild West, I think of the following Shakespeare’s quotation tinged with wits and pathos that speaks of our moments in life, such as last night’s episode of “Unruly Passenger at Moorpark Station”.

And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe.
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.

Birth of Underworld Train on 01/10/1863

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1863: A contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive on the Metropolitan line near Paddington Station, courtesy of the Telegraph

As a commuter taking trains – that is, both overground and underground – to work, I deem it appropriate to pay a historical tribute to the opening of the world’s first subterranean railway in London, England on January 10th, 1863. The London Underground is the genesis of all the world’s trains running under the surface of earth, such as the New York City Subway, the Los Angeles Metro Rail, Paris Metro, the Tokyo Subway, et al, and for its perpetual legacies as one of the greatest inventions in human history that reconstructed social substratum as well as cultural setting, the commencement of the Underground 156 years ago from today deserves of its deferential recognition and universal commemoration. Thus is my reason I write this post as a personal token of my appreciation for the use of the Metro on a daily basis.

When the idea of operating underground railways was proposed, the public and the critics alike decried it, demanded it should be offloaded, for they all shuddered at the thought of going under the surface of earth, which Dante indicated in Inferno as where Hell existed, or a pit fit for the condemned prisoners only. Those who had their disbelief on such daring idea of tunneling underground simply dismissed it as stark nonsense or one big hokum. Some even feared about a remote prospect of the tunnels collapsing due to the weight of the houses. And to some, it’s an express ride to Inferno, because the very thought of traveling underground by train seemed so preposterous, so blasphemous, so revolting that round trips should be used as a severe form of punishment for convicted criminals. Besides, like their modern counterparts grumbling about cacophonous environment of construction nearby, the entire procedural only instigated noisome puncturing of the equilibrium of locals.

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Commuters waving their hats in the air during a trial journey on the London Metropolitan Underground railway, courtesy of BBC.com

However, to the consternation of all those critics and public, the result of the Underground, the subterranean train of Hades,  came to fruition of its revolutionary speedy efficiency and cultural experience that was truly one-of-kind. In fact, it proved a triumph of determination and Victorian engineering feat, creating a dazzling combination of Arts and Science in terms of its technical prowess and the novelty of uniqueness in all things creative and venturesome. In fact, on January 10th, 1863, 38,000 people rode between Farringdon and Paddington stations. There were 3 compartment lit by gas, and each of the compartments was designed with care for passengers because efficiency and beauty could accompany one another, never rival.

When I will be on the Metro tomorrow morning, I will think of those Victorian London passengers on the Underground and will likely to thank Directors and Engineers of the London Metropolitan Railway Company for opening a new era of public transport that has upended our patterns of life and shapes of our perspectives on our everyday life.