Reading on a moving vehicle

Last updated 09:16 19/02/2013

I have a confession to make: I can't read on moving transport.

I mourn that fact. It is the most annoying thing in the world for a book nerd, to be unoccupied for loooong stretches of time and not be able to read. But what makes it worse is being in a moving vehicle, say a car, bus or train - where your options of fun stuff to do are limited anyway - and not being able to fritter away the time doing what you enjoy best. It's infuriating.

I'm not sure why it is that I can't read on moving transport or when this affliction started. All I know is that it gives me headaches, followed by nausea and horrible motion sickness that makes me want to throw up and pass out at the same time. Nice, huh? reading on bus

I catch public transport fairly regularly, not daily, but often enough that I get bored listening to Spotify on my phone. And yes, I know that I have the option of audiobooks, but I'm not fond of listening to someone else's voice bring to life characters that I want to visualise and personify for myself.*

There are many positives to being able to read on moving transport. The only moving vehicle I can read on is an aeroplane, and then there are other issues at play: dry eyes, thirst, uncomfortable bodily contortions to do with how frickin' narrow and hard those economy class plane seats are...

Anyway, I feel as though I'm missing out on a whole new reading perspective because of my disability. I have heard stories of people striking up friendships or even meeting potential romantic partners through their shared love of reading on public transport.

I suppose it makes sense, when you think about it. What better conversation starter could you have with a perfect stranger than to discuss a book they are reading that you are either interested in, have read, or plan to read?

Apparently what causes motion sickness when reading is "sensory conflict". According to an article on Scientific American, it's the difference between "the senses and expectations". In other words, if you're trying to read in the back of the car and your eyes are absorbed in something and the driver turns or the car goes over bumps, it causes your senses to disagree, which causes conflict, and motion sickness occurs.

When I was in school and, later on, university, it annoyed me that I couldn't do last-minute reading on the bus. Especially when my friends could squeeze in an extra precious half hour of reading time to do those compulsory readings we all secretly dread and put off till the final possible moment.

Children seem to be better at reading in moving transport than adults. This is based purely on personal and anecdotal experience, but maybe it's one of life's little mysteries. Like how kids can pick up physical skills so much quicker - skiing, snowboarding, swimming, skating, cycling - because of a certain innate fearlessness born out of never having had a broken bone.

As a friend of mine said, science needs to do some serious research into how to bottle up and sell regenerating kid cells in pill form.

Can you read on moving transport, or do you wish you could?

*I may make an exception for Leonardo DiCaprio, that man's voice is sinful.

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