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Train Arms Race

June 22, 2012

What is an arms race? It’s not a 100 meter dash between disembodies limbs. The original use of the term ‘arms race’ refers to parties (usually countries) trying to one up each other on who has the best armed force. The Cold War infamously comprised of a more chilling arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States on who would have the biggest and best nuclear arsenal. The peak stockpile of warheads for USSR and the US was 45,000 and 32,000 respectively. Because we really need to keep nuking the charred remains of each country after the first few have exploded, but I digress.

U.S. and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945–2006

The term was borrowed for other purposes as well, such as those found in nature. A good example is the trees in a jungle. Since sunlight is important for a plant it best thrives if it receives the maximum sunlight, however due to the limited real-estate space and with many competing trees the advantage for one tree is to grow taller above the other trees and soak in more light. As each tree receives a benefit from climbing higher and higher for that prized patch of light the overall jungle gets taller and taller. It’s nature’s arms race.

The problem with all these arms races is that each party would be better off there was no arms races in the first place. It’s expensive and a resource intense undertaking. The Soviet Union and the United States would be better off if they hadn’t spend billions on nuclear weapons and instead used the money for growing their respective countries. Same is for the jungle trees. If all the trees remains an equal height they could potentially stay close to the ground and still receive the sunlight. They would not need to pour all their resources into climbing towards the heavens.

The Train Trip

How does all of the above relate to my train trips you may ask? Firstly two things to note, Sydney trains are double decker and have tight single-file walking spaces on each floor between the seats. The other is that Sydney peak hour trains are sardine boxes on wheels with almost no room in the middle floors that contain the doors.

Cityrail Trains double decker side view

 Each trip I manage to get a comfortable seat and would ideally prefer to remain in it as long as possible until my stop arrives.  I would assume so does every other passenger sitting around me. However there is a secret arms race of sorts going on each weekday between me and others. It begins usually a station before or sometimes two or three before the destination, when people begin to get up and head towards the doors. It is like a bunch of zombie lemmings all herding towards a single point. If one pops up its guaranteed like bursting popcorn the others will jump out of their seats immediately afterwards. The truth is that everyone wants to be near the door when they are released like cows into green pastures from their winter housing. That is because they don’t have to endure a long shuffle down the walk way, and then fight the boarding passengers at the stairs only to receive a parting gift of an elbow to the kidneys from some idiot.

So the arms race is on. Sacrifice the comfort of your seat for that lucrative spot near the doors, which has its own dangers from the brooding masses in the middle section of the carriage or don’t bother and get left behind in the treacherous queues full of beastly passengers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our derrieres remained on those cushioned seats until the very last second of the trip, then all I had to do was to rush out only two seconds earlier. Mwahaha.

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