Rail Reactionary: 10 things I hate about life as a commuter

by - Thursday, May 22, 2014

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It's official. I hate train travel. Well actually, it's not as simple as that, but lets just say that my relationship is definitely one which has been affected by the North/South divide. Up North, train travel means a ride through the picturesque hills, jolly attendants who let you off if you've bought the wrong ticket and for the most part, short journeys in warm carriages. Down south, it's a whole different ball game.  During my three weeks on placement at NME (which I'll be filling you in on shortly), I made the commute from Stevenage to Southwark and back 14 times. And each time, like some horrific Groundhog Day, I observed the same complaints of commuter life. It's really depressing. Here's a few favourite anecdotes from my short time as one of those grey, miserable people you seen on insurance adverts:

Disclaimer: every single person I met at work at NME were utterly delightful, friendly and helpful, and have no reference to this list. Similarly, the actual infrastructure of London travel needs applauding, for I encountered not one severe delay on my nearly three week commute, not even during the tube strike. Don't hate the game, hate the player...

1)The angry ticket lady at Stevenage station
I'm not normally one to call out specific people publicly on the internet, but there is a certain lady who I'm sure is a wonderful person in her private life, but at work, turns into a First Capital Queen of Sarcasm. We didn't get off to a very good start - on my first day she informed me that the Travelcard I was requesting didn't exist and that I should do my research before wasting her time. Well I'm sorry, is she or is she not sitting under a plague marked 'Travel information'? Come rain or shine, I'd ask her for my ticket with a smile, sometimes even a good morning, and I would be greeted daily by silence, a bitchy comment, or the implication that I was clearly too unintelligent to ride the railways/taking too long to get my money out. Charming. 

2)The sort of people who sit on the outside then put their coat on the inside so you can't sit down. 
Or worse, they put their wet umbrella on the seat. These are the people who'll spread their legs over to your side and insist their bag needs it's own personal space like its got its own freaking personality and Oyster card. Come on, I think we're all a little old for imaginary friends.

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3) Over 40's wearing Beats headphones. 
Bit ageist perhaps, but it just smacks slight of someone a little too desperate to prove that they are still down with the kids and think nothing of spending their many city $$$ on overpriced coloured plastic. There's nothing wrong with a subtle in-ear, but please, save your ostentatious 'cans' for hometime. Or the gym, I hear they're pretty cool look down there. 

4) Investment Bankers and Estate Agents talking loudly about what they do/their personal opinions whilst looking around the carriage to see just how impressed everybody else is about their super high powered job. 
This particular group irked me particularly with the ignorant opinions they've gleamed from one certain tabloid newspaper, which appears to be the commuters choice - topics included 'bloody foreigners' and the late Peaches Geldof's husband who is 'surely too young and male to be expected to bring up two children'. A direct quote, I kid you not. Add to this people who sniff at your choice of reading material, because clearly nothing competes with their latest Derren Brown or Sophie Kinsella. Get over yourselves.

5) Tube strike.
 Or rather, everybody acting as if the Tube Strike was a fit of protest designed personally to make their individual life hell. Booing bus drivers who physically can't get any more people on, physically pushing people to get off first... this isn't the Hunger Games, can we all just chill out? My personal fave was a guy who shouted 'I'm going to be late to work!' and 'I always get this bus, why are there so many people on it?!?!' increasingly hysterically at every stop, like some sort of bizarre double decker hipster who was the only person on the bus with places they'd rather be than in a Kings Cross traffic jam.

6) People who stand up ten years before the train stops even though it only has one termination destination. 
They then proceed to fall all over you as the train continues to move, without apology. Seats are there for a reason, and if you're lucky enough to have bagged one during rush hour, you best damn stay sitting in it.

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7)The Cath Kidston/Orla Kiely clones.
I do not want this to be taken AT ALL wrong because I adore both brands and own quite a few bits from each (Orla Kiely flannels anyone?) Polka dot commuters, I'm happy for you all, I really am...but do you really like this print, or did John Lewis just tell you to? The First Capital Connect train aisle is a bizarre copycat catwalk awash with identikit Rain Macs, New Balances and people who do that really annoying thing or opening up their laptop hinges so far it's almost a giant iPad. So do you really need to match your bag, wallet, travel card holder and phone case and umbrella with the same floral print as everyone else? Get a grip.

8)People who play Candy Crush on full sized iPads on the tube even when there's no space.
 I don't really care if you've just hit the Chocolate Lake, your elbows are all over the place. Ditto to the guy who used his full sized iPad to watch what looked like a saved compilation of cat videos, laughing hysterically in my ear as he went. Look dude, it's 7.30 in the morning, save it for your lunch break.

9)People who just look angry all the time. 
Don't even think about smiling at somebody randomly on a commute: you may as well have threatened to snap their Blackberry and cancel their 3 o clock meeting for the look of horror you get in return. At best, expect your politest intentions to be returned by a look of blank indifference. You don't get this shit in Yorkshire. 

10)People who dive through the tube/train/bus doors like they're auditioning for another series of hole in the wall. 
Tubes come literally every two minutes, is if really worth the embarrassment of impaling yourself? Buses are slightly more understandable, but if the driver is already pulling off as you run up, throwing your shoe at the bus really isn't the way to go (and yes, this is a real thing that I saw.)

So there we have it, ten things I hate about London commuters. You're in the capital city, the days are getting sunnier, you probably earn more in one month than I see in eight. So lets all just calm down and be friends yeah? I bet we'd all be a lot happier for it.

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  1. It makes me feel better that I'm not the only one with a hate for Cath Kidston matchy matchy, it drives me up the wall!