Commuting

I’m back. Life got in the way.

Commuter hell – I’m obsessed with it. We’re all crammed into these little cans and we all hate each other. On Monday morning, around 8am, as the train pulled away from Harringey, I heard a scream. I turned off whatever questionable Britpop album I was listening to (probably Salad) and turned around with morbid curiosity. A fat lady in a polka dot dress – a part-time burlesque dancer, I guess, you know the type – had tripped as she ran onto the train and split a scaling pint of Café Nero Latte over some poor woman in a suit (looked like Asos own brand – ill-fitting and child laboured).

Asos sat in her seat crying while Polka Dots mumbled an apology. We all looked on thinking Thank fuck it wasn’t me.

On Wednesday, I saw a woman punch a teenage girl in the eye. 8.25am, Palmers Green. ‘You coughed in my ear’ was the meagre excuse the assailant snapped. I noticed she used her diamond-laden wedding ring hand to throw the punch. That rock must’ve done some damage and I got thinking that maybe the desire for a large rock is for want of a weapon rather than a proclamation of the financial status of a lady’s spouse. A guy I know has a girlfriend who said she wouldn’t accept anything less than a £10k engagement ring. She must have a fair few enemies, I thought. So I told him to buy her a cubic zirconia and tell her it cost ten grand. Everyone wins. He said she’d get it verified. Young love, eh?

Anyway, travel. I’m no advocate of violence, but I do possess a foul temper. Once, while negotiating morning rush hour in Dalston Kingsland, a skinny young bloke pushed everyone out of his way in a mad dash for the train. He missed it, of course. A few young children took a tumble down the congested stairs, and so when I caught up with him on the platform, I punched him in the head. It wasn’t a hard punch – I think he was more shocked than anything. He turned around and said ‘You fucking knobhead. What did you do that for?’

‘What sort an insult is knobhead?’ I said, and then proceeded to explain, very rationally, why I punched him. I just called me a ‘Knobhead’ again.

I’m not proud of it, but I did feel a little like Charles Bronson from Death Wish for a split second.

Most mornings I see this fifty-something year old woman struggling with her disabled kid’s wheelchair at the top of the stairs at the station. I reckon I help her with it sixty percent of the time. Not a bad ratio when you consider that only once in the last year have I ever seen anyone else help her.

People seem preoccupied to get to their jobs. And then you ask people about their jobs and they say hate them. It’s like a death row inmate saying ‘Yeah, don’t worry about the waiting time, mate. Electrocute me tomorrow.’ I don’t understand it.

Not being the bottom of the corporate ladder anymore, the need to impress my superiors in non-existent. I roll in at 9.15am most days with my Kindle under my arm. But even my relatively quiet commute is still a melee of angry men in crap suits and women begrudging society for forcing stilettoes upon them.

I live by a set of rules when commuting:

  • Always let people out in front of you.
  • Never put your bag on an empty seat.
  • Get out of the way if someone wants to get past.
  • Never run.

Unfortunately not everyone lives by them and in my role as Vigilante of Civility, I have been known to redress the balance of manners. For example, I was on the 38 bus in Angel, rolling towards Hackney and a girl refused to move her pink holdall from the one remaining seat. I stood next to her and her gaudy fucking bag, realising that in my briefcase I had a big, black marker pen. I snuck the pen out and hit it under my sleeve. As she gazed out of the window, I scribbled all over her bag. I grinned a ‘Goodbye’ when I disembarked at Mare Street. She looked at me blankly.

Tonight, I have a long-haul flight. Bali. I need a break – I’m breaking. Planes are slightly more bearable. Whack in my noise cancelling Bose headphones and watch a violent movie on my iPad. This morning I was the asshole with the 25 kilo suitcase on the morning commute. I adhered to my rules, nonetheless. I’ll get a cab to the airport after I finish work. Fuck getting the train. The holiday begins now. Sorry I’ve been away so long.

9 comments

  1. Hmm, I always imagined British commuters would be courteous and polite. Thanks for shattering my illusions! Bali sounds fabulous! Have a wonderful time! Are you going to try to write? Or just relax?

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    1. If it makes you feel any better about the quintessential British dream Meg, when I lived in Edinburgh the trains were all full of lovely people with soft burring accents, who genuinely tip their bobble hats in winter and smile in summer, and when they’ve seen you more than once start saying ‘hello’ (occasionally striking up conversation for a full hour or so). One time I was invited to join in a game of scrabble but it didn’t go so well because the trains would rock and the tiles would slide. Of course, they might stab you later when they’ve had a tipple in Glasgae but on the trains, everyone is your best pal.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha! That’s been my experience in Ireland, too! Unless the conversation turns political, in which case, I pretend to be Canadian! I haven’t been to London since I was a child traveling with my parents. My recollection might be romanticized by time and BBC America!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You have commuter London drawn so well. I cycle most everywhere but the tube does drive me mad when I use it. The central line is just so goddamn hot it makes me angry. But hop you have a great time in Bali, Jack. Hope the flight is ok and you get rested!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks H – I’ve lived it every day for a long time. I think the Central Line is the deepest, which is why it’s so hot – traps all the heat. #insulation
      I am looking forward to the flight almost more than the holiday. When is it you have an excuse to sit down and do fuck all for 14 hours?!

      Liked by 1 person

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