Blog: Five things I’ve learnt from commuting

thesoapbox

Commuting via train is the most stressful period in the working lives of millions of people. Here are five things I’ve learnt from this hellish nightmare:

1 – There are no morals on a train

Communist countries often lauded a world where status, wealth, and affiliation, bore no real influence on an individual. We would, apparently, all be equal.

Unfortunately, being equal means everyone has to take the good bits with the bad bits to ensure some kind of ‘equal’ middle-ground.

Train journeys seem to make everyone equally negative. You could be Mother Theresa – impressive really, as you’d be a zombie – but you would still transform into a foul-mouthed, heavy breathing, loud sighing, glum faced, barging monster on the train.

The English notion of ‘forming an orderly queue’ suddenly dissipates into a Greek riotous melee, courtesy in helping each other find seats is non-existent, and no one stops to ask anyone for help or information without a stern look piercing their soul.

Getting on the train is a race. The winner gets comfort. The loser is relegated to standing next to a pickle-breathed tramp outside the toilets.

2 – Some Season Ticket holders are self-important morons

Because you pay a ridiculous fee to ensure a certain length of travel, it is only fair Season Ticket holders have some sort of say in how the service is run. That does not mean to say they have better opinions than Mrs Jones who catches the train to the town centre once in a while, but they should be given some rights in stating how the system should run.

Yet this idea becomes overblown to mere arrogance among some Season Ticket holders on the train.

“This service is shit – I’m a fucking season ticket holder, for crying out loud” they often cry. As soon as a minor error causes a miniscule delay, out from sweaty, cotton fluffed pockets come the season tickets, waved around as some sort of placard – “look, I paid for this piece of card, so everything should run according to me.”

Well here’s an idea for you – perhaps everyone on the train is disgruntled, and perhaps they all paid too. The fact you keep paying makes you no higher than anyone else, perhaps other than in idiocy.

3 – Pregnant women never get seats

They just don’t, for reasons quite unknown. Some people find chivalry pleasing, while others would argue the concept of chivalry is a patriarchal term to make it seem as if men’s actions are somewhat of higher social importance than the actions of women.

I tend to agree with the latter – the idea of labelling a type of ‘good’ behaviour, thereby making it ‘special’, is slightly odd. It should all be known as pure ‘politeness’, gender regardless.

But whatever you call it, the notion that pregnant, old, or vulnerable people should get seats is nowhere to be seen. Despite carrying another human on the front of their body, many expectant mothers are just made to stand and face this exhaustion as some kind of pregnancy punishment, all so Ron from an upper-class London accounting firm can read his Evening Standard as if he were lounging on his sofa.

4 – Your best friend on the train is an iPhone

We never talk to fellow commuters (usually because many people on the train are just local drunks, or too tired to even be bothered to hold a conversation).

Novice commuters fall into the trap of the ‘stranger chat’. This usually occurs when you accidently drop something on the floor, someone picks it up, returns it, and you start talking to pass the time.

Unless you want to appear in the Metro ‘Rush Hour Crush’ section, do not do this.

Instead, learn from your counterparts – invest in an iPhone, Kindle, or just a book, and enjoy this social Bhurka as much as possible. (Just don’t raise your headphone volume so everyone else can hear it. It’s a train, not a nightclub.)

5 – UK trains are generally shit

They just are – not all, but a rather large portion. A lot of the problems discussed in the previous points could be solved if train companies actually ran a decent service.

Anger and frustration is often plastered upon a fellow commuter, usually because the train was a minute or two behind schedule. Fatigue is usually a sign that the commuter has had to change trains several times because of ‘faults on the line’ or some other inane obstacle. And the seething resentment one feels towards a train company is usually a sum of being screwed over time and time again.

The excuses train companies come up with are incredible – ‘we are waiting for another driver’, ‘the rails are cold’, ‘there is a Swan on the line.’

In any other country where I have travelled by rail (which is mostly central and northern Europe) I have never heard any of these excuses.

There are delays on continental trains, I admit. The difference is that those trains can travel at three times the speed of most UK trains, so a two minute delay does not really make much difference, as they can catch up. And – for the service you are getting on the continent – the higher prices are not really that unreasonable.

The rail infrastructure in the UK is terrible. Too many stops litter too many old lines, occupied by too many old trains, and the pricing of this service is just too high for the customer. Next time I’m in the station, I’m almost expecting the ticket lady to be wearing a black and white striped top, wearing a balaclava, carrying a sack with ‘SWAG’ on the side.

Words: Ashley Scrace.

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