Perhaps you are someone who has been commuting for a while. If that is the case, you’ve probably been lulled into thinking that commuter behaviour is normal – or, at the very least, The Way It Is, and The Way It Shall Be, Forever and Ever Amen. As a new commuter, I can tell you you’re wrong. If you are looking The Dread Commute in the face at any point in the near future, here are my top tips for surviving rush hour commute, from someone who is still morally horrified every time they get on the 8:06 from Honor Oak Park. The following is all based on my limited, subjective experience over a two week time period. I’m sure that, for most people, taking the tube Isn’t That Bad. Or so you keep telling yourself.
Don’t believe the lies people tell you about the London Underground. These might include (and are not limited to) the following:
When you commute you have time to unwind and prepare yourself for the day ahead/get ready to go home. FALSE. When you commute the only mental exercise you should be doing is rage/stress control techniques, not trying to find enough zen to scan through the day ahead in preparedness for work. The stress of trying to do that when your face is firmly pressed into someone else’s armpit will not, oddly enough, de-stress you.
Commuting is a good time to do a bit of reading. FALSE. Admittedly, there are those exceptionally weird people who, against all odds/the laws of physics will take out a stupidly sized newspaper and attempt to read the sports section while checking which stop is next with one eye and quietly judging the person next to them with the other. These people are mad, not commuter role models. You will almost certainly not have a seat, and, anyway, unless you’re one of those absurdly lucky/wealthy people who only have to take one train to work, you won’t have time to do any significant amount of reading before you have to drag your tired, inwardly screaming body from one metal cage to another. Commuting is not a good time to do anything, other than pray for divine intervention. And if you’re not the praying type, pray anyway. For mercy on you, and all those sharing your carriage.
At least commuting doesn’t require too much mental/physical energy on your part. FALSE. When it comes to general tiredness levels, your body likes travelling even less than your brain does. Especially travel that requires multiple different forms of transport, at a time of day when you barely want to look your other half in the face, let alone Half of London and their Work Issues.
Don’t be that guy. Try not to be any of the following people: (and yes, all of these apply to women too.)
The ‘I’m late I’m late I’m so important and I’m late’ guy. We can pretty much take it as default that if you’re on the London Underground around 8.30am, you’re experiencing a small amount of anxiety about being late for work/wondering how packed the next train will be. Do not give in to this. It basically leads you to treat other people around you as though they are brainless moving obstacles or demons dressed up as office workers, deliberately sent to torment you in your busy important life. You will find it much easier to remember not to be that guy by recalling that if your job/you getting there on time was THAT important, you would have left earlier, or you would have been picked up in a car. In the grand scheme of things, you are as insignificant as the slightly sweaty, tired person next to you. Try to join in solidarity with your fellow waste-of-space human, and don’t push in.
The ‘I forgot to put on deodorant this morning’ guy. It’s summer. This is really just one for your own personal benefit, but also take a moment to spare a thought for all the vertically challenged people who spend their morning/evening commute at armpit height. Another related pro-tip: remember to take off your jacket BEFORE getting on the train. Nothing worse than feeling overheated and sweaty with arms trapped to your sides for another 5 stops. On the other side, nothing worse than the overheated, sweaty person next to you trying to struggle out of their jacket and hitting you in the face with it.
The ‘I’m tired so I’m going to drape my arms around this pole’ guy. We’re all still going to have to hold onto that pole, even if your body is on it, because some of us can’t reach the ceiling handles. And some of us don’t want to touch you. Similarly, don’t be the ‘I’m tired so I’m not going to stand up and give my seat to the pregnant lady’ guy. You’re not carrying a human in your womb. You’re not that tired.
The ‘this carriage is clearly full but I’m going to balance one foot in the door so the train can’t leave and then do the tube equivalent of crowd-surfing in the hope that the mass of bodies will keep upright when I lean back into them’ guy. See ‘you’re not that important’ for more information.
The ‘5.25pm on the London Underground on a weekday is a great time to remember I’m an aggressive drunk’ guy. If you must drink and then tube, can you pick one going somewhere no one cares about, like North-West London?
The ‘I’m a creeper and I’m not good at hiding it’ guy. Actually, not being this guy is great general life advice. But, if I had to choose, I’d rather you look at me creepily in a bar when I can choose to leave it than on the tube at 8.37am when I can’t. NO WOMAN is looking to pull at that time. STOP IT.
See you on the Jubilee line.