The Challenge of Riding on a Train

Today, for a change, I went to work during rush hour. A day of training that started at 9 o’clock in the morning. So at the station early with other commuters. To catch a train.

Sounds trivial?

Amidst all the tales of mountains conquered, high-speed bike rides and the the general challenges of MS, I thought I would record just how much of a challenge everyday life can be. Like today’s rush hour commute. It starts easily enough with a walk to the station on a cold crisp day. Just mind my slightly dragging right foot on uneven paving stones. A couple of trips in the past, though, mean I am careful

But then I get to the station. And there are people. A lot of them.

The early commute meant I may bump in to a friend which makes it easier. But not today. So I checked my Dutch railways app to see if my train was on time. Handily, the app also indicates which carriages are busy and which are quiet, the latter being mostly at the front of the train. So I make my way along the platform. Other people are around me and I realise just how much of a challenge it is to walk in a straight line in such an environment. My right leg feels distinctly jelly-like.

Find a spot, stand still, wait for the train. I have earphones in but only put music on now, something soothing. Until then they are just muffling the noise around me a little.

More people congregate around me. Maybe they use the app the same way I do? Many are looking impatiently down the line, the train is a couple of minutes late. Let them be fidgety. Listen to the music, stay calm.

The train arrives slowly and it is fairly full. Cue rushing for the door. Well, people are not rushing that fast but it seems that way to me. On a bike I can cope with speed probably because it’s under my control.

But people around me? I don’t control them.

I am pretty easily knocked aside by someone bustling to get on the train in front of me. This feels incorrect. I keep mentioning I am a cyclist, after all! I have legs like tree-trunks! They can power me to 54km/h!

But that’s a fat lot of use on a busy train station.

I feel weaker, pretty useless, stumbling. Of course, I don’t look ill. No bad thing, I don’t want to look ill. That would mean more compromises. But it is not like I can say to the people bustling around me that I have MS, give me space! There is not the time! If I did say it they would be gone before the words got out.

There are seats to be had.

Not quite stumbling uselessly but certainly feeling the weakness of the right and the fact that all these people around me are just totally overpowering my overworked senses. Sensory overdrive is not a good thing in these circumstances.

But I get a seat. Sit down. Chill out, open my book.

Surprisingly, this train is not as busy as I thought it would be. I am sat on fold out chair by the door and can spread out. A little. A nice mix of music on the earphones and I am comfortably on my way.

Ins a stroke of luck Schiphol train station is not too busy either. A short walk to the bus stop where the express bus to the office is packed. There is a slower bus behind it that is half empty. I won’t be late so I will take that. More space.

And the odyssey is done.

A contrast. Alongside those spectacular mountains come the challenges of everyday life with MS. They can be just as daunting. In fact mountains can be less daunting because I want to climb them and I enjoy it. A combination of weakness and cognitive issues make such ‘normal’ things as riding on a busy train hard work. Mountains are not normally as busy, either.

What all have in common is that stubborn effort is needed to get them done. The reward of this one train journey was a day in training, expanding my knowledge. It will always be frustrating and confusing, though, that something as trivial as a morning commute to work can feel so….. non-trivial.

But, in the end, I made it. In a real double-whammy, I stayed awake through the whole day as well! A real boost!

Tomorrow, though….. I will go to the office a little later.

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