No one likes or enjoys their commute in whatever form it takes. No one likes being stuck in endless traffic as learner drivers slam on the brakes at random, or being sat on yet another late train, or dealing with a broken bike chain, or a hobbling on a blister on your heel making each step agony.
But, alas, if you want a job you enjoy (or at least the money that a job in the capital brings with it) then a commute is on the cards.
Here is a diary of the last five days commuting back and forth from a little town in Essex to the heart of wealth and opulence, Knightsbridge.
Today, I chose a late shift, which meant getting an off-peak service. You might think this means enough space to stretch your legs, have a seat, or open a newspaper to its full capacity and read with ease? No. Not happening. It’s just as crowded and just as hellish.
A man who’d found a seat was reading his Metro and it kept brushing my hand as I clung on for dear life. After much tutting and eye-rolling he was clearly either ignoring me or was too invested in the gossip of the day. I asked him to fold his paper as it was scratching my hand, adding an apology for the inconvenience. His face flushed bright red and I averted my gaze.
Now everyone on the train thought I was the world’s worst commuter for pointing out the inconvenience. But at least my hand was left unmolested for the rest of the journey.
On my way home, a child had an epileptic fit on the carriage of a train I didn’t need to get on, but which was sat on the platform. I was waiting for the next train to my destination and of course this meant it was going to be delayed. The driver sauntered up the platform to see what the fuss was about before asking station staff to call an ambulance.
The frantic parent of the child said an ambulance wasn’t needed as they’d been charged £400 for this last time they just needed medical help – I didn’t fully understand this bit. As I watched, the driver ambled back to his cabin as staff radioed for anyone with an inkling of medical knowledge to help. A nurse offered her services and the train I was waiting for was diverted to another platform.
The Perfect Storm of commutes. Not only did I not get a seat on my first train from Essex to Stratford, I didn’t get a seat from Stratford to Holburn, nor from Holburn to Knightsbridge.
To add insult to injury, on each leg of the journey a tourist with a ridiculously oversized backpack was taking the space of at least three commuters, and rather than throw him overboard – making the offender find another way to travel with less ridiculous attire – we all squeezed in hoping he was getting off at the next station.
The school holidays also mean parents are dragging around their screaming, snotty children from pillar to post in the hopes of finding some semblance of a responsible adult to just take them away for eight hours, which, if I’m ever made Mayor of London, would be illegal during peak hours.
As I was dozing off on my way home, having decided the Jubilee line was the lesser of the three delayed evils, I managed to grab a seat next to a rather unassuming lady with a few bags. She had headphones in which meant I’d probably be listening to her tinny music rattling but a seat is a seat and as long as it’s not soaked in urine it’s good enough for any tired traveller.
As I ready my book – because who doesn’t love reading about highly contagious diseases such as Ebola when people are sneezing into their hands then touching everything – a man began frantically waving and pointing at the lady next to me.
She was oblivious, but he asked someone standing to get her attention. Clearly not knowing this man, she tentatively took out an earplug to hear him scream THERE’S A WASP ON YOUR LEG! She tried to nonchalantly swipe away the wasp, of course any drama on the tube is frowned upon, and as it buzzed up and down the carriage many others did the same.
No one pushed the emergency alarm, although the fear in fellow commuters’ eyes was apparent. The wasp was swatted out of the way by a man with a Metro and exited at West Ham.
A couple boarded after the wasp alighted and were quite clearly drunk. The man, covered from literal head to literal toe in tattoos was propping up a drunk woman. She seemed to know the man, so that was fine. As there was no space, they shoved past a lady and stood directly in front of me, whereby he proceeded to touch her nether regions in a highly explicit manner. It was literally in front of my face.
Feeling like I was going to vomit from the combination of gross indecency and stench of alcohol I got up from my seat and waited by the doors, reporting them both to station staff. Ain’t no one needs to see that. Ever.
BINGO. The train was on time, the priority seat was free and no one was in need, and the train sauntered into Stratford like clockwork.
Now, the seat I had was unlike no other and this is what made my commute, and my entire day, such a joyful one. There was no one to sit next to as it’s a solo seat near the doors, and as the train wasn’t too crowded, no one trod on my toes as they stood next to me secretly glaring at my luck and fortune.
I also got a seat from Stratford to Holburn, and although a woman near killed me with her lack of control over a wheely suitcase (such is the joy of the Piccadilly line which heads into Heathrow) the journey wasn’t too bad. There were no displays of sexual nature, no one screamed at anyone else throughout the journey, tourists had all vanished and I managed to pick the right carriages for the exits I needed.
With a tube strike looming I knew this was the best journey I’d be having for a while, and putting the thought of the £420 out of my salary which covers my travel every month, I enjoyed every second while it lasted.