I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve overheard people say, ‘oh I couldn’t do this everyday’ when I’m on the train home from work. And by people, I mean those loud people with their scotch eggs and their mini bottles of Blossom Hill. The prosecco flavoured crisps are flowing, they’ve probably been to see The Lion King or Wicked, they’ve shared some spag bol at Bella Italia and now they’re pooped. How awful for them, ha! Look, I understand, getting the train to London when you’re from the suburbs (that’s anywhere south of Gatwick apparently) is a pretty big deal. It’s a novelty all the while you’re doing the fun stuff but then, when you have to get the train home and join the rest of us downtrodden regulars, you see it for what it really is: A 12-coach (if ya lucky) container of people who are running on caffeine and compensation – seriously, the delay repay scheme is the only thing that keeps us lot going. Sometimes when I get really down about the travel, I even scan the Metro’s rush hour crush section to cheer myself up – ya know, just in case on the off chance, someone might have seen me dribbling all over myself and laughing in my sleep and thought you know what, she is just the kinda girl my mum would want to eat salmon with on Christmas morning.
I find myself biting my tongue to stop myself from shouting out “I am one of them poor unfortunate souls, in pain, in need. I am broken. I have sweat running from my ear lobes down to my anus and newspaper print on my forehead. I face people eating bananas and scraping their porridge pots in my face on a daily basis and I pay £520 a month for the privilege. And don’t even start with the strikes haven’t even been that bad monologue.”
One of the consequences of commuting every day is that you become about 87% less tolerant of most people. Like the dude Skyping his kids aloud because of course he doesn’t have headphones. Or the person with a fecccking suitcase. Or the girl thinking that the 5.30pm train is the perfect time to sit there and discuss her whole life story – I can only assume with a potential date. You can learn so much about a person by being forced to sit in on an hour-long phone call. I mean this girl, she has boot camp at 7pm three times a week, she works in a bar until 2am on a Wednesday, even though it’s a killer. She likes ice cream. She’s also not proving too popular with the woman sat opposite me whose eye rolls are the most violent eye rolls I’ve ever seen, well aside from Kim Woodburn’s of course. She’s basically like that guy from BGT years ago, the one made his eyes pop out, remember? She’s tutting a lot too. You get a lot of those passive aggressive commuter types. In fact, my track record suggests I’m also a passive aggressive commuter type. Actually, that’s not quite true. The other day there was a young couple a few seats in front of me. I was desperately hung-over and I could already tell they going to be annoying af but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and let them giggle around all over their gourmet sushi. The guy must have been about 24 but the voice he was using to talk to his gf, it was like he was speaking to Thackery Binx or something, not a human.
I even scan the Metro’s rush hour crush section to cheer myself up – ya know, just in case on the off chance, someone might have seen me dribbling all over myself and laughing in my sleep and thought you know what, she is just the kinda girl my mum would want to eat salmon with on Christmas morning.
Anyway, so I let them be all smoozy and annoying but remember I am hung-over. I have a scarf wrapped around my head, TWICE, to block out all sunlight. I am not in a good place. Next minute they’re playing some kind of game – nope not a game, they’re learning a language. It’s French. She’s way more advanced than him so she’s helping him with the answers. Cute right? NO. Not cute. Every time he answers right, this language learning game gives him chimes of encouragement. I let it go on for 15 minutes and even that was 47 chimes too long. I nudged the man in front of me and said, “Do you think you can ask them if they have headphones please?”. He didn’t understand what I meant so I had no choice but to crawl out of the dark hole I had fashioned for myself and go and ask them if they would be kind enough to shove Rosetta Stone up their arses. I’m joking, I wasn’t quite as mean as that. I believe my exact words were, “I’m sorry to be an arsehole but I’m massively hung-over and that little chime noise that keeps going off, it’s really, really annoying. Do you have any headphones?” The twee gal said no we don’t but we’ll stop. Laaavely. Back to my scarf cave I went. It was almost as awkward as the time a man sat on my hair. Almost.So apart from the people, the strikes, the delays, the money and the grown ass men picking their noses and eating it (I don’t care what they say, they’re not people and how are they always married?!) it’s really an absolute dream voyage. Oh, and if you put your bag on the seat next to you, you may as have committed murder. But don’t let that put you off from accepting that job offer in London.
I’ve also met some really sweet people on the train. Like the little lady that was writing a short story about St Pancras – a little mouse she’d dreamt up, not the station. And the woman that convinced her friend she’d left her phone back in the first carriage, so off she went marching all the way down the train looking for her pal’s phone only to find she’d been stitched up. When she came back they were crowing and snorting and everyone around them couldn’t help but join in. Ya see, it’s a weird lifestyle – one minute you’re ready to fight it out for the final seat – slam dunking them with the 1676365728 bags you’re carrying, and other times you’re completely united in this commuter hell. You share eye rolls, you scoff at the on-train announcements and sometimes you even offer your fellow commuters a prosecco flavoured crisp.
So yeah I am pretty tired most of the time but who isn’t? And yeah, it does suck getting home too late to do anything remotely sociable, but I’ve been doing the commute for 4 years now and if someone sitting on my hair hasn’t completely done me in, I don’t know what will. Plus, I had a friend who had a stranger run their fingers through her hair… that’s way worse than someone sitting on it. Big ol’ hearty soz if this has come across like a bitter moan up, it wasn’t meant to be. I just wanted to give you a little insight into what it’s really like to be in the commuter gang, just in case one of you were thinking of joining me for the ride. And if you are, writer’s note: don’t bother with the mini Blossom Hills, you’re gonna need all 750ml of that sh*t if you’re gonna make it to ya next season ticket. Love you bye.
Photography by Olivia Foley