Monday, November 08, 2010

Welcome To Reality: The Commute



At last reality has finally caught up with me and I have recently joined the droves of people who go off to work for 8 hours every day for the rest of their lives. There is a lot to get used to in this time as things rapidly change and the carefree life once known becomes but a distant memory. One such challenge that I have come up against is the commute.

Like many people I need to commute to my office and the journey from home to central London takes about an hour door-to-door. Now what I have learned thus far is that if the commute goes well, then it is but a blip on your consciousness and passes quickly. However, if things go wrong then it can be frustrating and horrifying, with every draining second of it becomes a battle against for your very sanity.

I have already encountered a number of irritating challenges that crop up in the commute, see if you recognise these nightmares:


Delays – 

When these happen (and I guarantee you THEY WILL) you are powerless to resist. It feels as if god is mocking you.

What’s worse is if you change modes of transport en-route, as each different vehicle captain will be working as hard as he can to make your brief ride on his gloomy chariot of transport as awkwardly timed as possible. I think buses are the worst as they have the nerve of turning up early and carrying on as if everything is somehow normal, whilst you dash from your delayed train and see your delusions of having enough time for a slowly smug walk to the bus stop shattered.


Overcrowded Trains, Tubes or Buses –


Sweat, claustrophobia and bad breath surround you everywhere whilst you are cooped in an overcapacity tin coffin. Personal space becomes a priceless commodity, as you are crushed by several of your peers and then another 20 bustling commuters bundle into the already crowded carriages.

It is about this time that you realise that not everyone actually has the same level of personal hygine as you and seem to be unfamiliar with the art of taking regular showers. Or on the flipside there are people who smell too strongly of whatever perfume or musk it is they decided to bathe in before leaving home and suffocating the carriage.

Things get especially ugly if a seat is vacated as the harmless looking middle aged chap with glasses next to you elbows you out the way to steal the precious chair for the last five minutes of his forty five minute journey.


Loud Fellow-Passengers - 

These are normally irritating teenagers (where I live there are plenty) are an issue, as they have no concept of an indoor voice. So resultantly you get to hear all about their boring social dramas like whether Giselle is being two faced over Darren etc. In the worse case scenario these pricks actually have a degree of self awareness and realise they are being too loud, only to congratulate themselves by laughing at their own stupid audacity; probably grunting something like: “we’re so random” or anything equally as staid.


Avoiding All Contact With Other Commuters –

British reserve apoppin’! We Brits really don’t like each other. We politely nod at each other every so often - we have to by hardwired social protocol – however, despite the surface affability we’re really visualising kicking you up the arse and having a giggle. Why? Just because we’re tossers.


Well, as you can imagine mixing this bubbling inward hostility with confined spaces and you have a minefield being swept by short-sighted Parkinson sufferers. Basically any eye contact or unfortunate leg or arm brushing is a massive no-no or angry staring and a short abrupt “Do you mind” could ensue.


Train Failures/Signal Failures –


These are annoying precisely because you don’t know what or why is causing the exact problem. Forget trying to find out, you’ll never discover the truth, it’ll just be one of those vague excuses train providers stamp on every delay.

There could be a logical explanation for this or it could be that the fat controller running the show is just doing it for a laugh. Personally I lean towards the latter explanation but maybe that’s because I find it easier to imagine people in charge of anything serving the public as an old fashioned, incompetent, upper- class stereotype, preferably with a top hat.




It Is Impossible To Hear The Driver Over The Intercom –

Did he say everything is fine, that the train isn’t stopping at my station or that this train has been rerouted to hell? This is the 21st Century! We should have been able to construct a loudspeaker system that can transmit clearly and audibly enough on a train and not one that sounds like Alexander Graham Bell making the first recorded phone call with a mouth full of biscuits.



It Makes The Working Day Last Longer –

You’re at work for long enough but you still can’t relax yet… You still have a slow hour negotiating public transport before you can sit down and have a cup of tea in the comfort of your own home.

At least at work you have the satisfaction of having something to do, rather than anxiously checking the information boards to see if your train has been delayed by another minute because of a stray cat crossing the line; or trying to avoid touching the arm of the chap standing next to you who for some reason feels the need to hold the handrail in a way that means you can’t not bump into his arm after every lurching jolt.


Children – 

These are more of an issue on the ride home but if you just want to withdraw from the reality of the commute situation ‘mummy’s little dears’ make the process a lot harder. Also pray for your very soul if you happen to be riding anywhere on public transport and a school trip boards your carriage as you are then in for a very high pitched and hyperactive journey.


Pets –

Who! I mean who brings a dog on the train, aside from a disabled person with a helper dog! Something tells me the other passengers aren’t going to be best pleased when Rover gets spooked by the train and unfamiliar people



Slow Walking Bastards –


Result! You’ve just about made it to the station near work on time despite the constant delays. You’re cutting your timing a bit fine but if nothing else goes wrong you should make it into the office on time. Suddenly oh no! It appears as if a smooth walk to the office has been denied by the dragging heels of the wheezing, lurching, suit in front of you and several of his compatriots.

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