It’s faintly depressing to imagine all of the money you’ve spent in your life and the effort that others have gone to in your short existence to create memorable and worthy occasions, and it’s a train that sneaks up to the top without anyone getting a look in.
This isn’t just any train, though – there’s a little lounge at the front of first class on the ICE trains in Germany where a privileged nine can geek out together in an orchestral display of tragewondrousness. The driver’s little office backs on to said lounge, and through the glass wall you can behold him at work, master of all he surveys out of the long but heavily canted windscreen.
It’s something wonderful, to be pushed rather than pulled on your journey along the tracks. To feel the surge of power beneath your ridiculously comfortable leather seat and feel that however vicariously you are contributing to the magic that is happening. Normally your neck just lolls to one side, taking in everything that has already come to be, but up front, it’s like you’re creating something, consuming it before anyone else gets a chance to taste.
As I type, the outskirts of Cologne are flinging themselves at the windows, the world unfurls itself in the middle distance, waiting to be eaten up and left behind. I must be honest, though – it looks quite boring to be a train driver. You just have to sit there and press about three buttons. I get that you have to have the reactions of a fighter pilot to ensure that a mistake here doesn’t mean an apocalyptic mess six miles down the line, but it’s not particulary theatrical. The driver sits impassive. And if anything happens, I’ll be on hand to bring us in to land safely.
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