Most of us, at some point in our lives, will experience public transport and the hustle and bustle of the daily commute. With approx 250 working days per annum (give or take the occasional holiday I allow myself when not trying to save a nest egg or the occasional sick day) x 45 minutes commute x 2 (since it is generally preferable to come home from work) and I spend a lot of time on public transport.
For me, trains are the way to go. I like being able to sit, or stand and know that as long as I hop on the right train the journey will be pretty much the same from one day to the next. Yes, QR is not always consistent with prompt departure and arrival times and during any kind of inclement weather the Cleveland line is usually adversely affected but give me a train over buses any day of the week. I drive on weekends, usually only around the general area in which I live and it becomes nerve-wracking when I occasionally step onto a bus and encounter a newbie driver to the route who needs to ask directions. “Dude, I don’t care how you get there as long as you take a quasi-direct route to my destination”, is not usually seen as a socially acceptable response in these situations. So, I stick to trains and for the most part have always chosen jobs, houses and general activities based on proximity to trains.
Within a train carriage exists a microcosm of humanity and various social interactions and idiosyncrasies can be observed if one is able to lift their head from staring at whatever portable “smart” device the pupils are glued to for more than a moment.
Confession time. I am a people watcher. It is one of my all time favourite pastimes and given the amount of time I spend on trains, I have ample opportunity to partake in this personal delight. My usual modus operandi is to wear sunglasses and have headphones in, occasionally bopping my head or tapping my foot in time with a tune that isn’t playing. In this way, I am able to listen in on conversations and minutely study people (provided the sun isn’t illuminating my eyes through the glasses and making it obvious that I am looking at someone) from my vantage point amongst the action.
Over the years, I’ve seen it all. Sitting in a near empty carriage that suddenly fills with people swarming in from the next carriage along because some meth head has decided to relieve her bowels in the middle of the carriage, affairs begin, relationships end and everything in between.
My favourites are the misconceptions people have based on appearance and at times, body odour. Sitting on a packed train and seeing a heavily tattooed “thug” give up his seat to a woman before turning on the “suit” and deploring his sense of decency, hearing women talk about their cats by referring to what each of the pussies are up to and sitting with a mix of strangers and other people watchers, each trying to keep a straight face and avoid eye contact so as not to trigger a giggle fit.
Throughout it all, everyone attempts to maintain a sense of personal space (I have recently experienced a rather obese woman who decided to sit mostly on top of me for over half an hour and reduce the blood flow to my leg) and we each have our own ways of accomplishing this mission. Some, cover the neighbouring seats with bags, others put feet up or pretend to be sleeping as the train pulls into each station and everyone jockeys for space. Personally, taking into account my love of a good disaster movie or anything highly dramatic, I pretend to be highly infectious and cough and sputter when ever an undesirable moves too close for my comfort.
With life, comes lessons and hopefully laughter. That is what I shall continue to chronicle here. Hope you enjoy.