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Sometimes I have days where I have no inspiration at all. I kinda know where I want my story to go, but getting there seems like a drag.

A bit like commuting to work. Even though I enjoy my day job, sitting on the commuter train on the way to or from the city is a drag. Then again, sometimes it’s a fountain of inspiration.

A while ago the entire carriage was terrorized by a wailing child. I bet we’ve all been on a bus with one of those at some point. Everyone was pointedly staring past the mother, ignoring the noise. So did I, until I decided to have a look at the kid out of pure curiosity.

It was a rather pretty girl of about 8, in a special needs push chair. She was making loud wailing noises, then kept stopping and looking at her mother expectantly. She was clearly trying to communicate something, and trying to get her mother’s attention. I got the feeling that something was making her feel uncomfortable. I had of course no idea what that may have been – maybe her jacket was too warm, maybe she wanted to be able to look out the window. Whatever it was, her tired mother wasn’t paying attention to her, but was instead focused on her other child who was fidgeting on a seat.

The girl in the push chair grew more and more agitated, until she finally started to cry very loudly. You could see so much anger and frustration in her face, and I felt so sorry that I could not help her with whatever the problem was across the carriage. I thought how very awful it must be if you’re not able to communicate something like, for example, “Mum, my scarf is itching and it’s driving me nuts, can you please take it off me?”

After they had left the train, I spent the rest of the journey thinking about communication. Not just language-barriers, but also things like “What if you can’t talk at all?” Or how do blind people interpret other people’s moods if they cannot see facial expressions? Can deaf people distinguish sarcasm that is conveyed by the tone of voice, rather than the choice of words?

What if the only person who could facilitate communication between people speaking different languages happened to be illiterate? Hmmm, interesting.

And there it was. Inspiration.