I had the recent pleasure of going to London for a day. Unusually, this actually fell into the category of “business” and therefore required me to travel during “Peak Hours”.
The train I got on was the 7.39 to London, taking exactly 1 hour. Being a total noob, I stood at a random spot on the platform and mentally accused all of the commuters of being random for gathering at seemingly arbitrary spots down the platform. Of course, when the empty train arrived, I realised that these spots were where the doors on the train would be when it stopped.
So not being the first on the train meant I had to play that game where you look at the seating arrangements where you have six seats, three abreast and facing each other, with the middle spaces only being free, and wonder exactly how much you will piss everyone off if you attempt to sit there.
However, London Midland laid on a larger train, so I wondered down the platform until I happily found a nearly-empty carriage. I found myself beginning the journey in relative comfort, with leg room and everything.
I realised I was on a side of the train I never normally travel on. This helped me spot things that I don’t normally see on trips to London. For example, I was on a relatively fast train and during the latter half of the journey it thunders through many smaller stations. One of these stations I’d never seen before, and I doubt I’ll ever see again, as it seemed to be stuck in an era where everything was made of wood, and I’m fairly sure our brief 60mph visit completely levelled the place. There was also the station that didn’t appear to have any way onto it at all. No gates, carpark, nothing. The only sign of a town I saw was up high, where a bridge spanned the railway. It would appear the only way to leave that town is to hurl yourself 25 feet onto a concrete platform or possibly the 9:21 to Crewe.
The train got very crowded after Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard, and I was thankful for being tucked in a corner next to a window. I was in seat 3 of a 3 seat combination. Someone sat in-between me and the guy in seat 1. This didn’t half piss me off.
Commuting TO London is relatively easy. Of course, the fun really begins when you commute THROUGH London.
Travelling on the Underground during peak hours requires you to voluntarily strip yourself of anything that you would remotely call a “human right”. You even have to ignore the basic need to quench your own thirst, lest your abrupt hand movements clumsily knock someone on the arm, which in turn creates a spectacular assault-based domino effect that escalates in severity until the final person in the chain ends up losing an arm to a manic businessman with an iSword app on his phone.
The first train from Euston was full. Actually, no it wasn’t full. It was crammed with the kind of precision and efficiency that made me wonder if I was witnessing a Guinness World Record attempt. There was absolutely no space left on it, and moments before the doors closed, someone tried to get on. They created space out of NO SPACE. Surely this guy needed to talk to Stephen Hawking. The doors closed and this guy was moulded into the curve that makes the side of a tube train. His neck looked particularly painful. By painful, I mean broken in about 4 places. But instead of hospital treatment, he sought out his phone and seemed to be unaware that he should be in any kind of discomfort.
The next train was marginally better, and I braved it. I somehow shuffled between all the spaces, like a coin being shoved into the rows of other coins on one of those pointless 10p machines at Megabowl, and found myself wrapped a bit awkwardly around the centre pole, like a partially melted curly-wurly around a chair leg.
A man bustled on with moments to spare and ended up close to me. He then proceeded to get out a newspaper (The Daily Mail). This was a defiant two-fingers up to the situation if ever I saw one. This guy was clearly thinking “this is MY 4 square centimetres of space and I’m going to bloody use it”. He may have imagined that he looked normal, but actually he was only able to read about 6 words at a time due to the paper practically being imprinted onto his retiners. Combined with the fact his other hand was dangling uselessly despite his arm being raised, and the comical lean due to one leg being thrown out for balance, he looked more like a right-wing Thunderbird puppet.
I had to get off at Embankment and change to the District Line. Commuters do not obey any laws when striding between trains. Nobody allows you to double back, and attempting to do so will result in a slow-motion multi-person pileup, at the end of which someone explodes violently. If you need to be over THERE and it means crossing a steadily moving flow of commuters, you just go for it, and sod them. This attitude worked in my favour, and it actually is the attitude you need to ever contemplate commuting in general. Bloody sod them.
Because that’s their attitude towards you, after all.
And I’ve grown not to care, because down in the London Underground the word “sorry” means little more than “pity me, for I dwell where THAR BE DRAGONS”. Nobody could give a shit, and if they did, they’d charge you £58.30 for it anyway.