Synaesthesia Discovery

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Public Transport Synaesthesia

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Before Thomas started primary school, he and his grandfather, my dad, decided to write down all the train lines and bus routes that they had travelled together over the years. The purpose was to acknowledge one of Thomas’ pre-school years’ major achievements. In summary, Thomas had been on every Metropolitan Melbourne train line, 65 bus routes, and a few V-Line country trains.

My father, an educator and a scholar, has a strong belief that every child should go out to see the world. One of the first fun and educational activities in a child’s early life is to catch local buses and trains as it broadens a child’s knowledge. When my brother was about Thomas’ age, my dad used to take him on buses and trams in Shanghai, the city where we lived during my childhood. Being a Maths prodigy, my brother very quickly remembered all the bus routes and bus timetables. By five, he became a well-known Live Map of Shanghai. In the 70′s, gaining information was particularly difficult. He was able to use his skills in advising many neighbours, family and friends on how to get from one place to another, where to change which bus at what time. He estimated what time they needed to leave to be able to arrive at their destinations on time.

Like Uncle, like Nephew, Thomas took up my brother’s childhood hobby and is the most enthusiast public transport user out of all my parents’ grandchildren. He started regular long bus and train trips with my father, sometimes with my mother as well, when he was in the baby pram. As the years go by, he developed all kinds of synaesthetic responses to his beloved bus and train networks.

Thomas enjoys those synaesthetic sounds he hears while a train or bus is moving. I have already mentioned about his Motion -> Sound Synaesthesia in my last blog. But the strongest and the most amazing synaesthesia he has is the smell of each train station and bus stop. He occasionally taste them too, but his taste synaesthesia is not as strong as his brother’s.

Here are a few examples of what some stations or bus stops smell like:

Train Stations:
North Melbourne: Footy (of course, it’s his football team) :-)
Sandringham: Sandwiches
Footscray: Grapes
Belgrave: Plastic
Broadmeadows: Meadows
Werribee: Hats
Williamstown: Hamburgers
Dandenong: Ponies (same as Pakenham)

Bus Stops:
Sunshine: Sun
Lilydale: Bushes
Geelong: Bean bags

While I was drafting this blog, surprisingly, I received an email about an article on The Telegraph. The article talks about how James Wannerton, the President of the UK Synaesthesia Association, tastes each London Underground stop. Thomas is not alone!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10257633/What-do-London-Underground-stops-taste-like.html

Due to Thomas’ passion and some amazing abilities of working out how public transport networks in many countries we have travelled to work, he has gained an early employment as Skye’s station master in Gahooulia, Skye’s future country. One of Thomas’ dreams is to own a private train and have a driver when he is elder so that he can be taken around in his own train during his career break, i.e., when he is not coaching his football team, nor is he working as a Live Forever doctor.

For the time being, his poor mother has to work hard just in case he needs my help to buy a train. But truly, would it be wonderful to write blogs on a private train rather than on a crowded public train, with my synaesthetic son keeping me entertained ……

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