The Life of the Commuter Ant
The worker ant leaves his house early in the morning and marches, head down towards the station. At the end of his road, he turns sharp left and joins another worker ant who is heading in the same direction. This second ant does not acknowledge our worker ant because his head is down too. The first worker ant notices his determined expression and quickly averts his gaze, falling in to line and marching on.
More worker ants join the march. They continue silently, but determinedly towards their destination.
At the station, the ants disperse, scurrying away towards the platform. All the ants know where they must go. It is the same place they stand in every day, for this is what a worker ant must do to survive the morning commute. Now the ants must wait patiently for the train to arrive. Panicking as more worker ants arrive, they inch forward towards the platform edge. Anxious not to make eye contact with another ant, they reach for their newspapers and mobile phones.
Click, click, scroll, rustle, rustle …
Quick glance at the station clock, breath held and then released as the train comes in to sight.
The worker ants brace themselves. It is every ant for himself in the race to get on to the train. The lucky ones will find a seat. The rest stand and stare at the floor for the journey. Those who find a seat, if brave enough, take a quick look around at the other ants already seated. It is possible to do this because these worker ants are already absorbed in their newspapers, books or electronics, trying desperately to pretend that the train did not just stop at a station and new ants did not just board.
Our worker ant got a seat today. He is pleased. He gets out his book and begins to read, trying desperately to ignore the constantly coughing ant sat next to him. He glances up briefly. No ant around him seems to have acknowledged how annoying this is. He realises that they probably have noticed the coughing but they are in the commuter ‘zone’ and have been able to block out everything around them. It is a survival mode.
At the end of the line, the worker ant braces himself for the second leg of his journey. With steely determination, he follows the other worker ants in to the tube station. Focused on his destination, he tries desperately to ignore the thousands of people around him, all going in different directions, all equally as determined.
Ants swarm the tube station platform. Our worker ant tries to push himself to the front, but it is impossible. Three trains arrive before he is able to squeeze himself on to a train. Our ant thinks he might faint from the heat and the smell, but it is time to zone out again. He imagines himself on a sunny island, surrounded by nothing except white sand and turquoise blue sea. It seems to work, for he is at his destination stop before he knows it.
Just one more stage of the journey, the worker ant tells himself. Out he goes, almost carried along by the flow and when he reaches the outside, he breathes a huge sigh of relief. However, he cannot stop there. Commuter ants are everywhere on the streets. Moreover, they will not stop until they reach their destination. Our worker ant has no choice but to step in line, head down again and make his way to work.
Finally, our worker ant has arrived. Once through the revolving doors of his offices, the world outside is forgotten. Because in here, he is greeted by the receptionist, who says good morning and calls him by his name. In here, he is a person, not an ant. No longer is he an anonymous, insignificant black spec in a swarm of thousands.
For eight hours he can enjoy being real.
Until it is time to commute home again …
This story is posted as part of the Friday Fiction link up. Please feel free to join in and add your own stories here:
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