Reconnecting Strangers On A Train, One Tumblr Post At A Time
There are times when we can connect — surprisingly deeply — with a stranger, and then never see them again. A missed connection. NPR's Weekend Edition has been trying to help some of you connect with people you've been trying to find.
And it turns out we're not the only one trying to bring people back together. Since the 1990s, Dutch Railways has been helping passengers reconnect with strangers they've met while traveling on those trains.
The program is called Hartkloppingen, or "Heartbeats," and it features messages like this one on a Tumblr page run by the railway:
"Everyday I get on Zwolle, and you get on in the city of Lelystad. And everyday we look at each other, and when you get off the train at Amsterdam South sometimes you'll say something — very softly — like a greeting. Should we maybe have a conversation with each other sometime?"
Gerjan Vasse, who works for the department of communications at Dutch Railways, says they've seen research that 1 out of 3 of their travelers flirt frequently. That got them thinking.
"So, why won't we just facilitate this?" he says.
It started with messages printed out on free train magazines — and they became extremely popular. In 2008, Dutch Railways moved Heartbeats online, and it features missed connection posts from over 2,000 miles of railway, such as this one:
"We sat on a balcony in the train from Amersfoort to Utrecht. I had fries with peanut sauce — afraid it would stink up the whole train. You had a mullet, just came from a singing bowls concert. I think you're pretty. Thought it was way too short, the time we chatted. Want to catch up?"
Peanut sauce, hmm.
Vasse says the message board is the extent to which they'll play cupid.
"We're not a dating site," he says. "The connecting part, people really got to do themselves."
With or without their help, Vasse says about 4,000 relationships a year start on the Dutch Railway. Last year they hosted three marriage ceremonies — with the hope for more in 2018.
NPR's Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the Web.
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