Last night I felt a lot more conscious about my overall surroundings during my little photo trip. It may of been due to the lack of awareness I’ve had to details in my immediate space, since of course I’m now in a country where personal space is literally a millimetre from your body as opposed to having almost an arms width circumference to do whatever you must. Often the case being that since your whole body is exposed, you must pay a lot more attention to your body language or at least be certain about whatever image you may be projecting to others. However with a crowd of people all bunched together like pigeons going nuts of bread, you don’t really have a chance to take in individual qualities. Of course the behaviour of going to a cafe or a restaurant by oneself can be seen as mysterious or different, (or in my case bohemian after a very amusing night in Glasgow.) There may be a slight surge in people who accept they enjoy their own company more than others and go out of their way to satisfy that need. With all the media focus and especially the infamous virtual network which seems to connect everyone to a unified life support, those who enjoy their solitude may feel quite claustrophobic. Combine it with FOMO and a big internal conflict can start to surface. Do you sacrifice your own time to recharge in order to gather more fond memories with others or do you sit and observe the world realising that even without ones own presence and self, life does go on.
Of course as the world drifts on, all those individuals you’ve met with their destinations perhaps predetermined also move on. Especially for young adults who beforehand would meet a large variety of people through University or College, now with social media the amount multiplies greatly. People wish to be part of a group where their individuality is accepted and of course to find likeminded thoughts and ideas to collaborate in hopes of creating a lasting impression of a moment so dear to them. Since otherwise if it wasn’t for the moment created now, there is the fear of the moment that could have been. Add on top of that the bonus of engaging in an activity with other people, not only are you providing a euphoric experience for yourself but also to those around you. An act of kindness for yourself may only last 2 days, whereas one for those around you could last until a month. Think of the aftereffects of hosting a party or event, the continuous bounce back of feedback empowers more of the same to happen, especially considering that if you’re able to reel in a greater quantity and/or variety of people, then you risk both a higher risk of failure but also a higher factor of success. So do you become the facilitator of an event or do you let it go on its own course, knowing there will be more in the future following the same basic guidelines.
On the flip side though, not getting involved does allow for the enrichment and cultivation of ones own thought process and feelings. Strip back the technology, accessories and opinions and for example lets take a fisherman’s routine into question. The necessities of course would be the fishing rod, the bait and the location. A simple cycle of nature in which a fish is either caught or not. It’s almost the equivalent of an entry level retail job, you just understand the method and you repeat until a designated time hits. During this time you can chose a more mindful approach to become aware of your positioning, the sounds around you and just what part you may play in the environment’s current timeline. Countless people may have sat where you have and countless more may have walked by, however if one is able to think so broadly about it then even in solitude there is a collective mentality lurking in the background. That being said, if one cannot be at ease then this would feel pointless. Essentially it’s multitasking but with physical and mental tasks. So instead of seeing what you’re doing in front of you, you’re having to balance up tasks mentally prior. You could almost define it as a breeze of progress since both mind and hands are instantaneously having to work on their own and are unable to really comprehend what one another are doing. Best example I can offer from my own experience is whenever I’m drawing or improvising on an instrument. For the former, I’ve often been told I look like I’m chewing ,whereas during the latter my eyes are usually closed. On the downside, being caught off guard has often led to some garbage coming out my mouth which makes no sense whatsoever. And again the question has to be asked, do you focus on nurturing your own sense of tranquility and letting the world move by you like a stream or do you keep on searching for the next activity to keep you occupied and of course keep your brain enriched and distracted from the bothersome anxieties of not being fulfilled.
Finally, the main reason why I’ve come to the conclusion of all these ramblings as well as the title of this post, was because of the taxi driver pictured above. It was last night around 10:30pm, the night was winding down and myself along side it. Now I’ve gotten quite used to ordering a taxi and explaining the directions, heck being able to clearly pronounce the address and location makes me feel like I can do them justice as a passenger. As opposed to just throwing my phone screen at them and hoping they can read it, which honestly some expat blogs suggest when it comes to surviving the “Taxi China Trauma“. But the usual script followed. I get in. He drives like a mix of a maniac and a really keen parent seeing their kid off to prom. Pause at a few traffic lights to regain a balanced heart rate. Arrive eventually at the destination and say our farewells.
But this time was significantly different.
For the first few minutes the taxi ride was pretty normal, as the other cars raced by I paid attention to my phone more than anything else. Cars went by, the harmony of horns in their passing solos and the lights went from the blue fluorescent shades into the orange haze of the nighttime atmosphere. Suddenly though the radio seemed to grab my attention, perhaps it was because finally after hearing so much Chinese being spoken recently that I’ve started to pay more attention the some of the words which I could recognise more than others. However three words popped out more.
“Yi ge ren / 一个人.”
Literally translated it means by oneself. Following it phrases of listening to music together would follow but the phrase would always be repeated after a while. It was almost a soothing melody for a lonely traveller, someone who has tried to maybe go on the extreme sides of coping with loneliness and coping with always being included in every activity. At first I thought back to HONNE’s Warm on a Cold Night when in the introduction the radio presenter says, “And if you don’t got a lover just close your eyes and listen to HONNE.” But the words echo so clearly. That even if you do have someone that you love, that you’re in a committed partnership with, at that time physically they aren’t there. As a phrase it really does hit hard because there is a longing for that human contact, that human touch. So this phrase on the taxi’s radio really gave me the same effect and what followed probably surprised me more. Each time the taxi hit a traffic light and we had to stop for some amount of time, the driver would close his eyes and lean his head closer to the radio speakers (which by the looks of it were located just on his steering wheel). At first I thought he was tired but you could sense in his posture, his positioning that he really wanted to just deeply take in the music and what the presenter was saying. She was a soft spoken presenter, probably the equivalent of a lovers channel back home in the UK where listeners would text in their feelings on an emotional high. Although she sounded soft, she didn’t sound too fresh, there was a weathered sort of tone to her voice. This is perhaps what gave her listeners comfort above all else. A pure and simple presence. Especially for these Taxi drivers who drive at times like maniacs, making their passengers (especially foreign ones) fear for their very lives. Of course it is efficiency that if you’re able to safely navigate and the passengers demand a speedy service, you’re going to be paid either way. Thus after drifting in and out several taxi patterns and the often daunting trucks which may accompany you on the journey, to take a moment to breath and listen to the radio presenter almost calling personally to those listeners who are by themselves. That every night countless passengers enter their car. But only the driver, the roads, the car and the radio stay the same. The same routine and the same comforting situation. That in the dead of the night where passengers really don’t engage in small talk, there will be a little voice on the radio gently passing words of comfort that you and millions of other listeners can feel collectively comforted. And you can do it all by oneself.
Funnily enough after reaching the destination, paying and opening the car door gently, a motorbike flew past full throttle almost hitting the door. The speed and rush of the wind going by was enough for myself and the driver to give each other the same “Wow” reaction. We both stuck out our tongues and said “Be careful, be careful.” It certainly brought us out of the fantasy realm which the radio presenter had put us in and changed our mood to a more upbeat and shared experience. You could say there was no FOMO present about that situation.