Ten Things That London Commuters Have Taught Me

My time of the commute is nearly at an end and the wide-eyed considerate human that I once was has been replaced by a woman that goes, “Tssk“.

1. No matter how relaxed you are when you get off the train, the tube will get you. I swear, you could have meditated the entire time on the lovely overland train and arrived in a state of blissful calm, and it will be ripped from you the moment you stand up. The wave of “I must get off first, I must walk faster, get out my way, oh for Pete’s sake” will hit you the second you get off the train.

2. Your elbows and bum are weapons of mass destruction. When pushed into a corner by surly men in suits a deft nudge with your elbow (note: I said nudge) can get you room to breathe. If this fails look at man in question with horror in your eyes, catch his eye and then look at his hand and then your bum. He will think he touched it. He will move rapidly away. Use in emergencies only.

3. After three days you will go “tssk“. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Those people who you labelled as rude and unfriendly when you first started commuting to London are now YOU. At first I was astonished by how many people tutted at me under their breath because I just wasn’t fast enough. Today (and yesterday) I tutted myself. I am ashamed.

4. You will sit next to the freaks. On my first day it was Mad Snot Flicking Man who sat next to me and leered at me the entire way home. On my second it was Strange Growths Man who wanted to play footsie under the table. Now, as I approach the train home I think to myself, “Do I sit in the single seats next to the loo and endure the smell, or do I risk it and sit on a normal seat and see who sits beside me?” To be honest, the answer depends on whether or not I’m eating my dinner on the way home. And even then it’s hit and miss…

5.  If you are running late everything will stop working. Train tickets demand that you get there on time. Miss your train and you pay again (and out your nose). Usually you need to catch two tubes to get to the rail station. If one tube grinds to a halt because some [insert adjective here] human has pulled the alarm or tried to eat the conductor, the rest will follow suit. Or your next tube will be so full that it should be entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

6. Pretend you can’t see anybody else. I have been stood on, crushed, bumped and elbowed, and that’s just trying to cross the main station to get to the tube. I have noticed that those who escape unscathed are those who just walk and pretend they can’t see anybody else. You either get a briefcase in your eye or you leap out of their way. That said, if you are thin or short, adopt this strategy at your own risk.

7. Rational thought is abandoned in favour of the chase. It’s insane. You can see that the queue to get through the ticket barrier is about 30 people thick in all directions, but there are still people shoving past you to get in front. Why? The queue is just as bad on the other side! It bewilders me. I end up overtaking/catching up with these Furious Flappers five minutes later and my eyes aren’t bulging in fury. They’re cardaic arrests waiting to happen.

8. People are fabulous. You can be forgiven for thinking that I hate everybody on the commute so far, but actually there are some really lovely moments. You can meet new people, have fascinating conversations, and die with delight watching children giggle with their parents on long train journeys.

9. By the time you get to work you need a lie-down. I am filled with admiration for people who do this commute every day, every week, for many years. I am. They need awards and special holiday retreats. When I get to work after my two hour commute I’m almost incapable of coherent thought. The people I’m working with think I’m an idiot. They’re not entirely wrong…

10. You can fit 100 people into a space the size of your toilet. And then you can stop at another station and squeeze in a couple more. And again. And again. Then, when you have an armpit in each eye, an ass on your hand, a handbag exploring your spine and sweat pouring down your face, the tube will stop and a voice will come over the intercom and say, “Sorry for the delay folks but there appears to be a faulty train at the next station and they’re just moving it onto the siding.”

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kerry
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 03:50:34

    Or this called be called ‘9 reasons to move back to SA’. Only 9 because the lovely people are a good thing.
    See, I’ll never give up! 🙂

    Reply

  2. The Person
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 06:44:22

    I chuckled and smiled all the way through this post but must confess, as an ex-commuter, I can’t help lapsing back into Underground mode as soon as I step off the train on to the platform of whichever London station I travel in to.

    Victoria, Paddington and the Heathrow Express goers BEWARE next week!

    There’s a certain degree of satisfaction to be had when you’ve ‘done’ and survived the tube every day.

    And as for the ‘tssking’ you are now a TRUE commuter – welcome 🙂

    Reply

  3. Rhian
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 08:34:28

    I commuted Exeter to Bath (two hours each way) for two years, so a lot of this sounded very familiar. I think people down here are a bit friendlier than London though, and I’m still grateful I never had to deal with the Tube…

    Reply

    • Tamsin
      Aug 04, 2010 @ 08:38:47

      I think you’re missing a capital on that ‘t’. Grin, shouldn’t it read The Tube, sort of like The Reign Of Doom or something equally terrifying? How are you honey?

      Reply

      • Rhian
        Aug 04, 2010 @ 15:45:25

        I’m good – just finished a mammoth load of deadlines so am luxuriating in doing what I want for a while!

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