Thursday, 20 June 2013

A little bit of common sense can go a long way.

There is a man that gets on the same train as me, most mornings. He's probably in his early 50s, he wears the classic 9-5 every day suit, and carries a briefcase with him. He looks important but no more important than most of the executive looking people I share my train with.

I would have to say that, although I share a simple 20 minutes a day with this man in a cramped "standing room only" setting that doesn't leave much room for getting to know those around you (except for in the really inappropriate way that sometimes occurs when a person attempts to move a limb and accidentally hits one or two of the more biblical parts of the person next to them), I have managed to create one or two opinions of this man. 

When you enter into the life of a commuter and join the throng of 9-5ers in a busy capital city, such as London, you begin to become accustomed to one or two tricks of the trade. 

A few examples of this would be: know where to stand on the platform in order to ensure you are first on the train when it arrives, be resigned but accepting of train delays and have several alternative back up routes available to use, should your chosen route continue to be a bastard, have things available to you to do whilst on the train that doesn't involve much manoeuvring to operate or, failing that, master the far off vacant gaze that neither invites attention from others nor looks as if you are paying too much interest in someone else's conversation (even if you are). 

There are many others, but you get the general gist of it, basically take your journey with the littlest fuss possible for both you and those around you... Not only for the immediate peaceful journey, but also for the ones after as, and this is important, you will be seeing these people again tomorrow. 

Although there may not be signs on the public transport around London that list these rules, they are widely known by the frequent travellers and are generally adhered to in the polite, "wouldn't want to cause a fuss" way that we British people tend to deviate towards. 

However, occasionally there are exceptions to these rules; people who come onto the train and decide that they will be damned with the carefully placed etiquette and enforce their own rules onto all the commuters around them, so as to... I don't know... Make themselves feel big and more important than others? It's hard to tell, as I tend to join the throng of people who roll our eyes and tutt silently to ourselves at the disruption made to our morning routine. 

These "exceptional" people are usually one off occurrences, a woman who's got out of bed on the wrong side and wants to vent her frustration to the man who accidentally trod on her foot, a man who has his music on a little too loud, but is very apologetic when you ask him to turn it down, a loud conversation on the phone featuring an argument between the commuter and their ex... All things that might piss you off for a day, but then the next day they're back to being rule abiding citizens and you wouldn't be able to pick out their face from a line-up.

Then you have the man I referred to at the beginning of this post... A man who clearly has been travelling on the same train for possibly decades, and for some reason had decided that this means he holds superiority over everyone else. I have travelled on a train with this man for over two years now. I don't see him every day; maybe 2-3 times a week, but the times that I do see him tend to be tainted with his "I am clearly far more important than you" attitude. 

This attitude most of the time manifests itself in over the top loud tutting at the poor heavily pregnant woman trying to get to a seat, being offered to her or the sighs and muttering to himself should someone inevitably have to move a limb and it dares to come into contact with him. This alone is enough to piss off the whole train. However, unfortunately this is  not all that my Man-In-His-Fifties is doing.

You see, at least once a month, he will decide that he isn't happy with the train he's on and will decide to pick a fight with someone in our packed enclosed space, usually over the same thing... 

Now, I can understand it is frustrating if you need to get to work and have waited for the train, only to find that the doors open to show a carriage full of people packed in like sardines and the only available spot is about 5cm in front of the entrance where a person has shifted away from their leaning position against the door, so as to avoid falling out when they open. 

I understand this, I really do. But as much as I understand this frustration, I also realise that this lack of space is not the fault of the people in the train who are clearly all in the same position as the people on the platform, where they, too, need to get to work. The only difference between the people on the train and the frustrated people on the platform is that they a: Have a longer journey to make because they live further out of London or b: they actually left their house early enough make sure that they had time to get on a train that wasn't so packed. And, indeed, there are lots of people on the platforms who look at the packed train and shrug with acceptance because they have got to the station early enough to mean that if they got the next train (a mere five minutes behind) they would still make it to work in time. It's all in the fine-print of the standard 'Living in London' contract we all share. 

My Man-In-His-Fifties, however, doesn't agree with this contract and his superiority over the 'little people' he has to share a journey with, wins out. He will see the 5cm of space, stick his foot on it, push himself into the already packed carriage and announce to everyone:

"Move down the train, I need to get on."

I will admit, there are occasions where the doorway will be packed and no one has moved down the carriage so there are spaces. However, this has never been the case when my Man-In-His-Fifties uses his suitcase as a way of shovelling all the passengers into tight embraces with each other. 

When he makes his announcement, most people will look around (with minimal neck movement due to the tight embraces they are currently in) and look and each other as if to say "Where?" Most of the time, our awkwardness and the general 'brush it under the carpet' attitude we have will mean that we don't react farther than that. However, occasionally there will be a hero of the train who is either fearless or has never seen what happens when someone reacts to my Man-In-His-Fifties. This will be the person that will make the obvious observation that there really is nowhere for us to "move down" to. The rest of us silently agreeing whilst staring at them in amazement that they dared to poke the beast. 

Then my Man-In-His-Fifties will respond by signalling to all of the people smelling each other's armpits and make the non-sensical comment of:

"Look at all that space in front of you. Move down!"

When someone argues with you, using no logic at all, it is actually really hard to argue back. There are no rules, no guidelines. Instead you find yourself looking at the person and gaping because you have lost all knowledge of response. This is what usually happens, followed by another nudge by my Man-In-His-Fifties, so that he's on the right side of the carriage when the doors close, and I find myself suddenly face to breast of the tall large chested woman in front of me. 

Occasionally someone will still argue back to this and point out that there really is nowhere to go. This is replied with a comment by my Man-In-His-Fifties along the lines of "We are all trying to get to work, stop being so difficult."


Like I said. How do you argue with illogicality? So far, these altercations have not amounted to anything else further than this, but I really don't know how much longer this man is going to last without a broken nose. One day, he will choose to argue with a man twice his size and then we are going to be stuck with an unconscious guy flopping around a completely packed train. 

This is where common sense is really needed. His face is well known throughout the commuters, his attitude infamous as confirmed by the groans when the train pulls up at the platform and he is spotted. This cannot end well for my Man-In-His-Fifties. I think he might need to realise soon that these are people he will need to travel with for the rest of his working life and learn what it is to be nice... Or at least logical, that would help. 

Mind you, he's definitely not new to this commuting milarkey... Perhaps he just doesn't care...

*shrugs* Each to their own, I guess. 

Peace out my lovelies. 

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