Going anywhere at rush hour is a painful experience for anyone not accustomed to the practised dance that is commuting. Yet, it needn’t be as difficult as it looks. Inspired by my recent stints in London and Bristol, I present this Sachtastic top ten of things to remember whilst commuting.
#10 – Smartphones are excellent
They truly are. The biggest problem with commuting is how long everything takes, particularly if you travel with First.
In the olden days, people used to buy books from the strategically placed WHSmith’s at the station. Non-idiots can no longer do this, due to every single piece of fiction being burdened with a sticker declaring, ‘If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll love this hastily written moron porn’.
Smartphones are the answer, then. They let you play with your imaginary fish whilst looking busy and important. They let you tweet about your delays. They let you call someone to let them know you’ll be late.
#9 – The world is divided into good and evil
This is clear at railway stations, and clearer still at Tube stations. If you go down the side of the stairs you’re told to, you’re good. Go down the other side, thus causing chaos, you’re evil. I saw three little old ladies doing this. One cackled, ‘We just don’t care. We just don’t care!’ Point proven.
At tube stations, if you stand on the left on the escalators, you’re evil. There is no other conceivable reason for doing this. Having made the decision to arrive at your destination slowly, you then decide to force a lot of other, busier, more late, people to do the same. I imagine this is the same mentality that leads people to become suicide bombers.
#8 – Early mornings and moving vehicles make a bad combination
And by bad, I mean vomity. Trust me on this one- breakfast is best served crumbled into nanogram portions to be consumed at twenty minute intervals.
#7 – Routine makes you complacent
Don’t let yourself think you’ve sussed it. You’ll do something horrendous. You’ll end up lolloping instead of power-walking, and end up being late. Or you’ll take down only seven digits of the eight-digit booking reference you got when you booked your tickets and end up having to go to a woman in a booth, who will inform you that ‘it’s a customer reference, dear, not a booking reference.’ You might even let yourself be momentarily distracted on a night bus, and look out of the window to discover you’re not on the route you thought you were.
I have more stories, but I think I’ve warned you sufficiently: SEMPER VIGILANS.
#6 – Aisle seats are for tourists
Window seats give you something to stare at whilst you ignore the person beside you. You also ignore the awkward situation where someone is forced to clamber over you.
Note: if someone is sat in the aisle seat next to your booked window seat, you stand for the rest of your journey, or until they move. Whether or not you do this whilst staring at them is a matter of personal choice.
#5 – Tourists should die
They walk slowly, ruining your power-walk. They talk to one another, distracting you from your smartphone. They appear carefree, so as to rub in the fact that you volunteered to spend two weeks of your life sleeping in a tent, getting up at 4am and eating food that tastes like the fuel it was cooked with.
Actually, I loved the Olympic tourists- just don’t tell anyone.
#4 – You are going to die
Really, you don’t need me to tell you this, as you will feel it the second you and hundreds of other commuters move towards your platform. The trick is just to accept it.
#3 – The train people think you’re stupid
And by the train people, I of course mean First. They will tell you that the 0827 to Penzance is on time, when you know that it’s delayed, because the clock says 0833 and in the universe where you live, time runs linearly. They will also tell you that a loose roof panel is a reasonable reason to cancel a train, when you strongly suspect it could be fixed with a spanner. They will then top that one off by telling you another train will be along in half an hour, when in reality you will be stranded at Bath Spa station for an hour.
100,000 signatures say we’re not stupid.
#2 – Show no fear
Hardened commuters feed on fear. Hesitate for a second and they’ll overtake you on the stairs, dislodge your bag from the overhead rack or steal that bit of wifi you were thinking of using.
It’s like when Amy gets an Angel in her eye on Doctor Who: you’re going to have to walk like you can see.
#1 – This is the hardest thing you’re going to have to do all day
In all seriousness, if there’s a job you end up doing that’s worse than the stress of the three hours there and back, it’s not for you. Commuting is a hideous and dehumanising experience. If you don’t believe me, consider how many times commuter trains are delayed by an instance of the carefully-worded “fatality” on the line. I hate to be grim, but these people have picked their moment.
It’s all there, and it’s not pretty. I only did five weeks of commuting this year. I put up with snowdrifts, heavy luggage, early mornings, drunken abuse, delays, cancellations, blisters, travel sickness and a whole lot more besides. In work, the worst I had to deal with was a journalist who didn’t know her place. Curiously, not on either of my journalism placements.
Go out into the world, my pretties, and good luck to you. Let yourself harden to the endless silent procession of suited figures. Let yourself do work on the train rather than read mummy porn or face your own thoughts.
Whoops, ended on a bit of a low. Let me tell you though- if you ever have to commute, don’t do it like the rest of them. Do it in civvies, not suits. Loiter at the station. Mingle with the other traipsers. Read the paper over people’s shoulders. Bother. Wave your cricket book around in the hope of starting up a conversation. Do not go gentle into that good night.