our very public privacy

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I invite you to imagine yourself in a large theatre, standing on a stage in front of an audience of 200 strangers. You are about to speak out, frankly, about your most private moments.

Ready to go? Happy? Begin…

No?

Oddly, public transport seems to provide a safe environment for us to do this. To share our most private moments. A train carriage, packed with 200 strangers for example.

In only the last week I have witnessed three examples whilst travelling on a train.

Maybe it’s the imagined intimacy of the one to one telephone conversation, the background hum of the train on the tracks? Maybe it’s the intensity and the emotion of the content of the exchange, taking us into ourselves?  I don’t know, but somehow these people become so absorbed by their conversation that their awareness of their audience is seemingly totally lost. They find a freedom and a frankness in front of strangers; all sense of potentially prying eyes and ears, any sense of vulnerability, of exposure, of visibility seems to desert them.

Whether it be a lady initially informing her husband she will be late and is having to stand, descending into a row about him never listening to her and a very honest view of his sister’s shortcomings; or a young woman, speaking to a (presumed) friend, recounting her night out, which culminated in her boyfriend hitting her; or a conversation face to face between two standing passengers, conducted at unnecessary volume, one initially exploring a ‘client’ emotionally falling for her (I’m sure there are ethical limits here) and culminating in a sharing of bluntly truthful views on their respective partners and their children…

Maybe we should be more cognisant of our surroundings and the words, thoughts and feelings tumbling out?

Or maybe we could benefit from such honesty, such openness, such trust in our everyday lives?

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