The London commute – there’s a special place in hell for it. If I could purchase a flying carpet and get to work in a single rendition of ‘A Whole New World’, I 100% would. Actually, on that note…I overheard one of the IT guys at work discussing jet packs the other day…one of them could work. If you come across any going cheap on eBay, give me a shout.
I recently replaced my usual one-train-and-two-tube commute for a ‘leisurely’ two-motorway drive into the office. I did this in hope it would 1) save me from the £400 a month train fare (Greater Anglia on the rob as always), 2) cut down the lengthy journey time and 3) provide me with a valuable break away from humans, where I could sing at pitches only dogs can hear…as loud as I like. The reality: I get stuck in rage-inducing two hours delays every other day and well…ok, yeah I do have a pretty great time singing out of tune.
If like me, your daily commute gets you feeling irate, glance your eyeballs over my scribblings below. It may just help this tedious activity feel a little less shite…or it may just make you aware of annoying things you hadn’t actually noticed until now. In that case, I can only apologise.
1) Avoid people you know
I recently got told that I came across as “one of those people who would talk to you on the tube” – it wasn’t meant as a compliment.
Rule #1 of the unwritten law of the London commute is to keep chit-chat with acquaintances to a minimum. Hell, maybe even fully-fledged friends if it’s before 8am. It doesn’t matter if you’re normally a warm, approachable person – during the commute, almost every person you come across will fill you with contempt. Stay cool.
Sure, Susan from two doors down is a hoot, but an hour of small-talk in an incredibly over-crowded carriage is enough to make you set your morning alarm 15 minutes earlier to guarantee you catch a different train. The same goes for colleagues – You spend 8+ hours together as it is, surely that’s long enough?
For the sake of both parties…play dumb, pretend you haven’t see each other, sit in different carriages and use your phone/book as a fail-safe distraction to avoid any awkward eye-contact in passing.
End note: Completely disregard this point if said acquaintance, or stranger for that matter, has a dog. Dogs make life better.
2) Make up elaborate stories about strangers in your head
Disclaimer: Note that I said “in your head” – this is of key importance, or you WILL look like a crazy person.
Forgotten a book or magazine to keep yourself occupied on your daily commute? No worries, you can just make your own entertainment.
I know that looking at people and…heaven forbid…making eye contact…is heavily frowned upon in London, but people watching can be pretty damn fun, especially in a city as diverse and eccentric as the Big Smoke.
“This is Sally, mum of twins. She likes to dress little Michael and Jonny up as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They turn 21 this year. Sally works as a high-flying lawyer by day and moonlights as a clairvoyant by night.”
“And over here we have Tyrone. After his career in professional curling failed, he turned to magic. He now works on cruise ships, performing slight-of-hand tricks for the over 60s.”
3) Check your route isn’t buggered before you leave
Nothing makes train or traffic delays worse than the element of surprise. Turning up at the station to find swarms of people filling the entire platform and surrounding areas is NOT OK. Nor is joining the M25 and being faced with signs informing drivers of a two hour delay after they’ve committed themselves to that route. “Thanks for that helpful nugget of information traffic control, now go get me that flying carpet.”
4) Listen to music
As mentioned before, I use my drive home to let loose with my untrained vocal chords. The louder and pitchier the better. It’s the ultimate way to regain my zen.
Train people – This is also a great way to avoid contact with other humans (See point 1), but don’t be that person who listens to their music so loud, that every other passenger in the carriage is put through the torture that is the High School Musical soundtrack.
5) Swear at people in your mind…
…or out loud if you’re in the safe confines of your car…just don’t hoot your horn…that’s reserved for brushes with death…and twats.
Person in front of you walking/driving too slowly? Person behind you stepping on your heels/tailgating? Person next to you shoving you out the way to get on the train/cutting you up on the road?
I’d say take a deep breathe and focus on mindfulness, but the reality is a bit of mental swearing is far more satisfying. F and blind as much as you want, just be sure to maintain that “butter wouldn’t melt” exterior.
6) Work from home
When all else fails, just don’t do it.