ET09: Ethnography of a Train Station

This is a blog series about my European Tour 2009.  There is no song paired with this post. Please read day 1, 2, 3 & 4-5 before proceeding.

Day 5.5

The earliest train to Brussels from Leuven would not arrive early enough for me to catch my bus to the airport.  I had to resort to the unthinkable.  Okay, I lied.  I was thinking about it because I was really curious how it would be if I slept in a train station.  Sure enough, I’m getting my chance.  I took the last train from Leuven to Brussels Midi/Zuid and here I am sitting on a bench in the middle of the train station at one in the morning.  After watching the people around me for a few minutes, I couldn’t help but bust out my Moleskin and do some ethnography.

June 9, 2009 – 1:06 AM

There are 5 of us grouped together on a dual sided bench.  A brunette reading a book to my left.  A young couple eating seeds and listening to music on my right.  A guy in white on the other side of the bench behind the couple.  We’re all here just waiting for our train or bus.  Occasionally, a drunken homeless lady joins us.  She would sit on the other side to drink and then lay down to pass out.  She already fell off the bench once and broke her bottle of hard liquor.  She was pissed.  Currently, she’s not here.  I’m guessing she off looking for more booze.

1:17 AM

Four Americans just walked by us for the third time.  Three guys and a girl.

1:20 AM

I’m kind of jealous of the floor Zamboni cleaner guy.  He’s been driving around all night sweeping and mopping the floor.

1:23 AM

The Americans just walked by again.  This time just one guy and the girl.  They looks like college students studying abroad.

1:24 AM

Noticed the bus ticket to the airport of the couple next to me.  I’m guessing I’ll see them on my bus ride to Charleroi.

1:25 AM

The Americans left us after buying more junk food.  Typical.

1:27 AM

Four loud drunk men speaking French approached us.  They mostly confronted the guy in white behind me.  Poor guy.  Security quickly approached them and told the drunks to scatter.

1:35 AM

The girl of the couple laid down to rest.

1:36 AM

The guy of the couple offers me some sunflower seeds.  I politely declined.

1:39 AM

The guy next to me pulls out a sweatshirt for the girl.  It’s actually quite cold in the train station.  About low to mid 40s.  I wish I had something warmer because I’m freezing myself.

The drunk lady returns to the bench.  With her was a bottle of Juniper beer.

The Americans, same guy and girl from last time, walks by again.  More food?

1:36 AM

Okay, this middle aged man, bald, carrying a beige bag and in a sweater has been walking all over the station for a while now.  He just walked by again.  Time to introduce him to my ethnography.  I think I will call him Pierre.

1:39 AM

Random and unknown homeless guy just appeared out of nowhere.  He just rode the escalator down from a platform only to ride it back up.   Everyone on my side of the bench couldn’t help but snicker.

1:40 AM

Drunk lady left us again.  Probably looking for more beer.

1:43 AM

Homeless guy returned from the down escalator.  He did not proceed to go up again.  Instead, he wandered elsewhere in the station.

1:51 AM

Drunk lady returns.  Surprisingly, she has no liquor.

1:56 AM

Drunk lady passes out on the bench.  Her head is knocked back.

1:57 AM

Spoke too soon.  She woke up again.  And she’s asleep again.  Laying down now.  I wonder if she is going to fall off the bench like last time.

1:59 AM

American couple passed us again.  Back to their hiding spot.

The couple next to me, I found out, are from Spain in route to Amsterdam.  The guy asked me where I was from.  He thought I was Italian and French.  (SCORE!)  I though he was Italian.

2:00 AM

Man in black sweater and bag passes us.

2:05 AM

Security approached our group and asked us for our tickets.  They told us that only people with tickets can stay in the station.  We showed them our tickets, to which they asked why we were out in the terminal.  Apparently, there’s a heated area around the corner so we won’t have to be freezing our arse off.  #FAIL

We collected our belongings and headed to the heated area where we found the Americans.  #DOUBLEFAIL

3:05 AM

I had a wonderful hour long chat with the brunette girl.  Her name is Maglida (sp?) and she’s Polish.  She’s on her way to Paris to visit a friend.  After our long chat about traveling, school, food and beer, she had to switch train stations so she could catch her bus to Paris.  She was hanging out at this train station because she knew it would be open and safer.  Note to self…

3:20 AM

Was sleeping when a black man walked in and started to speak French asking for money.

3:25 AM

French begger returns.

3:30 AM

Talked to the American kid.  His name is William, a college student from Florida, and studying abroad in Amsterdam.  The girl is his friend who is visiting him.  As for the other American guy, he’s from California.  The third guy turns out to be a Lithuanian studying in the same program..  He doesn’t speak English well and is just there for the fun of it.  He went off to find the bathroom because “he had to pee.”

Had a really nice chat with William about traveling and why it’s important to travel.  None of his friends from home really understands.  William on the other hand is seeing the world.  No worries Will, I completely understand.  I’m seeing the world too.

4:23 AM

My night in the train station is over.  Quite the experience.  On the shuttle bus in hopes that I will catch my flight.  Next stop, ROME!

.:: On to Day 6 & 7


8 thoughts on “ET09: Ethnography of a Train Station

  1. Pingback: ET09: Roma « .:: phampants ::.

  2. Pingback: ET09: Love Today « .:: phampants ::.

  3. Pingback: ET09: Eden « .:: phampants ::.

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