Thursday, 5 July 2012

Commuting and the art of homicidal rage repression

I don't drive. I've tried to get a licence in the past but failed enough times to accept my role in life is that of passenger/pedestrian.
I live in a medium sized West Yorkshire town but work in a large city 20 miles away.
These two facts mean my commute is done via public transport.
Not the bus, no I thankfully have been through the extraordinary test of human patience and sanity that reliance on Arriva (company motto - "just be grateful we show up at all") entails and found ways to remove them from my life. I use the train and either get a lift from Big or walk to the station.
Now, my bus experiences have one positive, they serve to remind me that commuting by train could be a lot worse. I do not enjoy my commutes. The morning one isn't so bad, I get on the train at 7am and catch a train which arrives just after the express. It's older rolling stock, slower and has more stops but it's not as busy, I always get a seat and can just sit with the Kindle and let the miles roll away.
But going home... oh dear. Come and see

First we have to negotiate Leeds station. Dodge the people standing aimlessly under the departure boards being about as aware of how they're blocking people who know where they're going from getting from the doors to the ticket gates as they are of where they're supposed to be.
Now the ticket gates. Invariably there will be a huge queue formed at the one manually operated gate with the guy who checks those tickets the automatic gates don't like. The queue is actually full of people with season tickets who can't be bothered getting their ticket out of the little wallet. And one person who bought their season ticket at a station that doesn't use gate-friendly tickets. That queue has bunched out after about five people so you can't get to half the other gates. The available gates have one person who is just stood there feeding in a ticket that clearly is too battered to work, over and over again, one person who is just confused by the whole electronic array and possibly suspects that like a T-Rex, if you stand still long enough, they'll wander off and leave you unscathed, and two people with trolley cases. Keep your eye on the people with the trolley cases. Especially if they're that tiny little kind that you don't know is being trailed in your path until you trip over it.
Ok, now the escalators and stairs. It's been a long day and you're tired, achey and only able to force your muscles into doing your bidding on the promise that you'll be home with a comfy chair and a cuppa soon. Oh but the escalator has a queue too. At this point it may be worth mentioning a little escalator etiquette.

  • Don't rush ahead of your party and leap on the escalator, only to then turn around and hold loud conversations with them over the heads of the people now between you and them. 
  • if you are wearing a backpack and the escalator is busy, please appreciate how your backpack is actually overhanging the next step down and occupying the same space as the person behind you. Sudden movements could cause concussion or even a bloodstained domino effect
  • if you have trolley cases (oh yeah, them again) that are too unbelievably heavy for you to consider lifting by the handle, USE THE FECKING LIFT. 
  • If you opt not to use the lift, at least have the common decency not to arrive at the top of the escalator and then faff for 20 seconds getting the handle sorted out before stalking off and trailing it behind you while leaving everyone behind you jogging on the spot in a desperate effort not to fall down the mashy, sharp metal staircase or trample you into the dust.
Sod it, we'll use the stairs.

Ok. Platform and here comes the train. Cue moment where everyone suddenly loses all sense of personal space and bunches up together to where they predict the train doors will be when it stops. Watch the careful assessment of how much space the collective mob is willing to allow for people to disembark without risking not getting on the train first. Doors open, people squeeze out, insane squash as everyone surges forward and you're carried off your feet and into the train in a flurry of elbows.
Oh gods is it over yet?
No, now act quick and grab a seat. Then give it up to the disabled/elderly/pregnant person who is apparently invisible to all the fit and healthy men in business suits carrying gym bags. Stand, again with the Kindle and try to block out the jolting, the sweaty proximity to too many people who've been working all day, the annoying tannoy announcements by the nasal, petty train conductor and transport your mind somewhere more palatable while your physical self is transported home. As this train goes to an airport eventually, there will be people standing in the midst of a fort made of suitcases, they will have blocked the doors. There will be people who will crack open a beer or a WKD before the doors close and Start Their Holiday Right Now, loudly. There will be hapless people who didn't realise this was a heavily oversubscribed commuter service and are trying to squeeze up the aisle to the seats they have booked. Which are occupied by the celebratory holiday drinkers. Who don't want to move. You won't see that petty conductor guy again.

Some random old bloke will try to engage you in conversation. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice your skills at either a) being foreign and not good at english b) being politely reticent in the hope he'll stop or c) selective deafness

At least this is the fast train and only takes 20 minutes. So long as no poor soul has tried to end it all on the line or a train up the track breaks down or they just decide to stop just outside the station for a rest and nice cuppa before having to let all the jittery, repressed commuters out.
The doors open. If you are in a party of travellers of which only some are disembarking at this station, please be aware that now is the perfect time to stand in the doorway and have that vital last conversation, followed by protracted farewells. No really, none of the rest of us really wanted to get off anyway.

And breathe. For we are home. 

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