Life Lists London Travel Work

The Morning Commute

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Recently, a Buzzfeed list has done the rounds which has resonated well with my fellow commuters. It reminded me of this old, long-unfinished post that I actually started writing in early 2011 but never got round to finishing. Still, as it has a few points the Buzzfeed article missed, I decided it would be worth finally finishing it…

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Despite that, the worst thing about the morning commute is usually the people you’re travelling with. You share your journey with hundreds of other people on your train alone, and they all have to be somewhere quicker than you do for far more important reasons. You’d have thought that the free world wouldn’t be quite so dependent on so many people.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most annoying things people can do to make your morning commute just that little bit more unpleasant.


Can you move down inside the car? No, due to some of the more fundamental laws of physics.

For those of us who travel on popular routes at busy times, it is not uncommon to find the train too full to have even a hope of squeezing on. But that doesn’t stop some people trying, calling out the all-too-familiar “can you move further down inside the train?” in the hope that a gentle reshuffle will give them a few extra cubits of space to allow them to fit into the doorway, despite the fact that everyone is already so snuggled in together that it would make a hooker blush and no-one can move anywhere. Also, adding a ‘please’ to that request doesn’t really add that much time to your journey.

A rail boss in the past claimed that a packed train is safer. But I maintain that if a train is so packed that breathing is a chore, then if that train has even a slight shunt, the compression effect of so many bodies in such a small space will mean that either everybody’s eyes will pop out or they’ll have an involuntary bowel movement.

And whilst I’m on this subject, where do you look when you’ve got a woman inadvertently and unavoidably rubbing her arse in your crotch whilst crammed into a crowded train? I bet they do that on purpose just to make you feel uncomfortable.

That brings me right on to…

You must be starved of human contact, so I’ll shove my arse in your face as I pick up my newspaper.

Well okay, I’m not certain people do this on purpose, and maybe they’re doing because they themselves are starved of human contact and want to feel the touch of a person in their midsection. But still, when I’m sitting on the train reading the news, I’d rather not have someone’s bottom rubbing on my shoulder. Unless it’s Natalie Portman.

I suppose it doesn’t help the inherent design flaw of trains that the heads of those sitting are at crotch height of those standing.

Yes, I do need to take my child and its huge pram into London during the rush hour.

One of the things I don’t quite get about train companies is that they ban cycles from trains during busy periods, and yet still allow people with prams and wheelchairs, despite the fact that they take up at least as much space but add more kerfuffle at the alighting and delighting stage (I’m pretty sure delighting isn’t the opposite of alighting, but it should be so I’m going to run with it).

The problem of course is discrimination, something I’ve talked about in the past. Banning prams and wheelchairs will prevent that person from travelling, whereas banning a bike will not.

But the theory should still stand – there is precious little space on a train during the rush hour, and having a chunk of it taken up by a big thing on wheels is only making things worse. I’m not saying we should ban them, not at all (well okay, maybe a bit), but I’m saying they should exercise some common sense and realise they are taking up valuable space and inconveniencing themselves at others. Maybe train companies should charge a surplus if you want to bring a buggy onto the train at busy times?

And speaking of taking up unnecessary space…

These seats aren’t designed for someone with my size testicles.

We’ve all been there; your usual first choice of seats (being the ones nowhere near other people or with the most room) are all taken, and the only space left for you to actually sit down is next to a man who seems intent on proving the physical size of his cajones to the whole carriage by sitting with his legs spread almost across two seats, and a polite request or even forcibly sitting down next to him won’t get him to shut his legs any further. To make things worse, it’s usually a middle-aged man who should know by now how to correctly store his testicles.

… or my size arse.

The big-testicled man is only one of those people who takes up more than their fair share of the seats. They, however, are usually assumed to be over-exagerating, unlike the fatties who take up two seats without even trying. One thing I always try to do when sitting down on trains is ensure that I’m using all of my seat; that is, sitting centrally in the seat and not letting my neighbour force me off the edge by taking up more space than is theirs, or reading a huge newspaper. Unfortunately, with some of the larger travellers, this policy could end up with you sitting on a lap. Failing that, you may end up crushed up against the carriage window if you had the misfortune to be already sitting down when some oversized lump decides they want to sit next to you.

The button hasn’t lit up, but if I push it enough times it still might open the doors.

From the Utah Transit AuthorityCome on now. When you do this it makes other people think that you don’t actually understand technology and spend most of your time at home shouting at the TV remote for not operating the microwave. It’s really simple; when the lights are on, the button works. When the light is off, the train is still moving and opening the doors is really not advisable. If you want off that bad, why not pull the emergency cord or the door release?

If it was just that, it wouldn’t be that bad, but these halfwits usually give up their rabid button-pushing just before the fucking thing activates, or in extreme cases, they were mashing the ‘door close’ button. Is operating the doors really that difficult?

Despite plenty of free seats and the fact my station is eight stops away, I’m going to stand in the doorway ready to leap off the train in an instant in order to shave 27.3 seconds off of my commute.

I need to tread carefully on this one, because I have on occasion come close to behaving like this. However, I always try to stand out of the way so to not block anyone’s access. I figure it makes more sense to offer a slight inconvenience when boarding the train compared to the kerfuffle when I have to push through a packed crowd of people to alight.  It’s the people who stand brazenly in the door without caring about the people trying to get past them, just because they know that door is the one nearest the exit at their destination station.

A similar but to me even more peculiar set of people are the ones who take a seat, but despite being on a relatively quiet train still get up to queue at the door several stops early, getting in people’s way.

My music is so good that I want you to hear it over your own headphones. You can thank me for it later.

For some people, simply annoying fellow commuters with tinny renditions of whatever music they happen to be listening to isn’t enough. These people want to annoy even any other commuters who have elected to shut out the rest of the world with their own music, because fuck them, that’s why. THERE IS ONLY ONE PERSON WHO GETS TO PICK THE MUSIC ON THIS CARRIAGE AND MY CHOICES ARE SUPERIOR. (they probably say.)

Worse, of course, are the new generation of fuckwits who forgo the headphones entirely and think it’s okay to just play the music out loud from their phone. This is not okay. This should in fact be punishable by garrotting with a headphone cord.

My backpack is a sentient entity so I’m not going to apologise for it if it smacks you in the face when I turn around to find a seat.

Look, we all understand you need to carry a lot of stuff in your backpack. We all do. Most people, however, have an adequate level of self-awareness to realise that when they turn around the large bag on their back will swing about, conveniently right about the head height of people already sitting down. I know the back has two straps and is designed to be carried over the shoulders, but it also has a smaller strap for carrying in the hand in the sort of close-quartered environments such as you find in a rush-hour train.

Of course, hand-carrying isn’t a solution in and of itself. I’ve still been whacked in the head many times by handbags and satchels carried by people who still somehow failed to notice.

I know you’re polite and won’t listen in to my conversation, no matter how loud it may get.

Seriously, I know it’s important you tell Sandra about what Kelly and Lee have been up to and about how you still have that problem that you need that special ointment for, but do you really think we want to know? Or that there’s not some lonely people on the carriage who won’t hang on every word? It’s enviable you’ve managed to tune out the depressing world of the commuter around you but as this entire post should have highlighted, whilst we’re all keen on shutting out the world whilst on public transport there is still an obligation to be considerate for the other poor souls you share your journey with.


By Rob

Photographer. Filmmaker. Writer. These are all things I would be if I was only a little better at them (and did them more often).

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