Tag Archive: commuting

Tis the season…

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting darker and shorter. The temperature noticeably drops, and you are desperately trying to defend yourself against the common cold. But it soon dawns on you that you’re fighting a losing battle.

Your nose starts to tickle you, ever so slightly. That slight irritation in your throat suddenly morphs into a diabolical brute of a thing living at the back of your throat, which thrives off causing you as much pain as possible just for its own pleasure. Nasal fluid starts to trickle down your nostrils and as the flow becomes heavier, you sniff and swallow often to try and force back those tides. You long for that person to kiss your throat better in the back of a black cab, just like in that old cough sweet advert.

It’s at this point where you overdose on vitamin C tablets (fruit for the those who are more health conscious) or on legalised drugs you can buy over the counter, and this works for a while.

Your problem, however, is other people and the germs that they are carrying and spreading around. At work, on the tube, on the bus and even in your own home you’re surrounded by symphony of coughs, sneezes, and sniffles. Hoarse coughs, high-pitched sneezes, stifled coughs, resonating sneezes, mucus-filled coughs, ‘barking’ coughs- You. Are. Under. Attack!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic towards people who are ill. I was that sickly, frail person at university, who was susceptible to all sorts of illnesses, until working on the streets as a ‘chugger’ (aka charity mugger, aka charity fundraiser) toughened me.

As I write this, a lady on my left is trying to hold back her coughs, but by doing this she’s only making her cough worse. It’s so bad, in fact, that a stranger to her right is now offering her some kind of cough sweet, which is a nice gesture.

What I’m annoyed about are people who sneeze into their hands or just cough out loud and then touch the rails that you need to hold on to, or touch the buttons that you need to press. Stop it- I don’t want what you’ve got, thanks!

This is what I see every single time someone does that:

You are infecting me with your germs. ‘Catch it, bin it, kill it’ is more than a set of dance moves (and why that even came out in the first place, God only knows). Just do the thing that the NHS campaign is getting you to do. In fact, for a lesson on how to sneeze into a tissue, watch this:

So anyway, it is during this bleak time of the year when my hand sanitizer is my strength and my shield, but it does have its limitations.

One particular incident, which I would like to share with you, concerned me walking through the tunnel at Bank station to get the Central line. As I walked, the person in front of me sneezed the most dirtiest, wettest, spit-filled sneeze ever with their mouth wide open. I couldn’t stop myself in time, so I had to walk into that cloud of mess. I’m really not sure what’s worse, walking into someone’s sneeze, or walking into someone’s fart as you’re walking up the stairs. Both rate pretty high on my list of unpleasant/deeply disturbing experiences.

What also bugs me are the people who pick their nose, blatantly in front of everyone like it’s nobody’s business, as if they’re digging for gold. And they’re not fazed that you’re glaring at them to get them to stop. Nasty. (I do recognise that this point has nothing to do with someone having a cold, but I just had to publicly get that off my chest.)

Please, if you’re an offender to the crimes I’ve just outlined, just be a bit more considerate and stop these vile actions for humanity’s sake. Thank you.


Assume battle positions!


It really is a jungle out there when it comes to commuting to, and from, work. Don’t be fooled by the glum faces you see in front of you, this will only lure you into a false sense of security. These people are not pacifists- they will turn on you in an instant, especially when it comes to actually getting on the tube/train/bus, or delays, …cancellations, hmmmmm… getting a seat- ok, well this could happen in many different scenarios, so beware.

Commuting definitely changes a man, and a woman, from being the most courteous person ever, to behaving like a ranting, raving beast!

(I am in no way, shape, or form telling you to buy AXA insurance)

The thing is, the commute into work on the first day back after the Christmas holidays was my most stress-free commuting experience, ever. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was so considerate and polite. Albeit, there were no school kids, so that was an added bonus. But what made it a pleasant journey was just how well mannered everyone was. And the fact that there weren’t any delays. I thought I had hit my head and died.

So as the bus, or tube, opened its doors, the conversation went something like this:

Commuter A: “After you.”

Commuter B: “No, after you, you were here first. I sincerely insist”.

Commuter A: “Don’t be silly. I implore you to go first, please, do me this great honour.”

And this conversation went on and on until someone gave in. The same thing happened with seats as well. Everyone was just all so congenial.

But on day two, Lord, on day two, there was so much aggression- I’m guessing it really was a shock to everyone’s system! Social pleasantries and niceties were thrown out of the window. I could feel myself getting tense, and I felt my blood pumping through my veins as my blood pressure started to rise. I screamed in my head: ‘MOOOOOVVVEEEEEE! I have somewhere to be- somewhere far more important than where you’re going,’ willing people to get out of my way.

Commuter A: “Get out of my way, I was here first, nincompoop!”

Commuter B: “Who are you calling nincompoop, you imbecile? I was here first, pal!”

Commuter A: “Youuu ARE NOT talking to me. Youuu CANNOT be talking to me!”

Commuter B: “You are rude!”

Commuter A: “No, YOU are rude!”

Commuter B: “Well, you are ruder!”

And on and on that conversation went until physical violence erupted, to the dismay, and amusement, of others.

Even if the phrase “excuse me” is used, it is usually said in such a harsh manner that the person who said it might as well just have spat on you and cursed you profusely.

A long, but not exhaustive list of problems, which can incite commuters to violence, include: signaling problems, power outages, cable theft, over crowding, line suspension, “person under a train”, fire alert, person sick on the train, activation of passenger alarm, a customer incident, leaves on the track, the wrong type of snow on the track, track being flooded, station evacuation, faulty train, late engineering work. All the while, when you hear these excuses on the tannoy system, you curse under your breath and you scream in your head: “But I just want to go home/I have to get to work on time!!!”

On my second day back after Christmas, I was making my merry way along the platform at Paddington station after work and was barged into the side of the train by an overgrown gorilla for not getting out of his way when I saw him coming, apparently. Fool. I’m guessing you can tell it still stings, ha, ha (nervous laughter). My pitiful retort to him fell on deaf ears as he marched away.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I saw a full blown fight at Bank Station. A man in front of me pushed this lady in front of him to get on the train. I must add, she waited patiently for the passengers to get off the train instead of barging her way on, which is another pet hate of mine (something that really gets on my nerves, irritates me, gets my goat, makes me see red- are you getting the point of how much I hate it?)- she was courteous though, see?

So anyway, one man noticed that this lady had been shoved rather harshly and told the other man not to push a lady, and said in a strong Scottish accent: “We’re all getting on anyway, mate.” Though, to be fair, that last part wasn’t true. Typically at that part of the platform, the train would’ve left with that particular train carriage practically empty, because of how congested the platform gets.

They started arguing, with the other guy shouting in full bravado: “So, what? What you gonna do? What, bruv, what?”

I honestly don’t know who threw the first punch, it all happened so quickly. I was right behind them. I wanted to try and separate them somehow, possibly by pulling the London man’s rucksack. But thank goodness sense prevailed- have you seen how tiny I am? I would’ve been hit about like a rag doll, so I just stepped to the side, like everyone else.

They were really going for it. They were pulling each other’s clothes, the London guy’s Dr. Beat headphones fell on the floor- it was all very dramatic. The platform guard tried to stop them, he was a real big fella. But what really made them stop in their tracks was when a man came up to the carriage, dropped his duffle bag to the ground and shouted: “Transport police! Right. You two- off!! Now!!!”

I really felt sorry for the Scottish man, I’m not even sure if the woman whose honour he was fighting for was really all that bothered (she just wanted to get to work, right?). I think he’ll probably think twice about doing that again.

This type of spectacle rarely happens, I have to admit, but happens, it does.

Up until about a month ago, I had a train nemesis and she got. On. My. Last. Nerve. The woman got on and off at the same stations as me, going to and from work. My journeys were interesting, to say the least.

The woman would push her way through on to the tube to get a seat. So I turned it into a game and started using tactics of my own to slow her down so she wouldn’t succeed. Cow (sorry God).

It’s intriguing that people do actually develop tactics in these situations, whether consciously or unconsciously. Last year, someone even posted a tactical hand guide, which divulged all of his secrets on how to get a seat on the train, in particular, on the Overground trains. Since this commuting veteran had fought the good fight and was no longer travelling to work by train, he felt he was ready to share his expertise. (You have to click on the words to view the website. Just saying.)

So, my words of wisdom surrounding the matter are- well, I don’t have any really. I do want to find out about your experiences though, so hit me (not literally, enough with the violence now, we’re in civilian mode)!

“Never fear, I am HE!”

You know those times on the tube when step on to the platform and you see your train is still there, with the doors wide open, beckoning you inside.

Then you see the timetable screens ‘flashing mind the doors’ and you hear the bleeping noise signalling that the doors are about to close.

You panic.

Do I risk limb and life to get on that train? Do I feel lucky? Am I a punk? Will I get hurt? Or will I just get humiliated and pretend like I didn’t want to get that train anyway?

I’m sure us commuters have had this discussion with ourselves before, as you do.

But this guy, this brave, brave soul, wasn’t afraid of the rejection.

He wasn’t even fazed by the potential pain. He casually strolled up to the doors as it bleeped.

“Stay away,” it warned, “stay away!”

But just as the doors began to close, the guy seemed to switch into super-human mode. He seemed to say to himself in a deep voice: “I… have… the… power!!!” And he used his bare hands to try and hold the doors open.

There was a gasp.

“Will the mighty doors crush him?” were the words from everyone’s lips. Well, at least that’s what the looks on their faces said.

They (and me, obviously) looked on in total awe as the man in a white T-shirt with bulging muscles (well, sort of) pushed those doors back and strolled on, effortlessly.

My hero.

I’m guessing it was a ‘you-had to-be-there’ moment. Whilst tired.

Well, I need to keep myself entertained somehow on my commute to and from work. Fun times.

I have to say, it hurt. It hurt quite a lot to pay £5.99 for an iPhone app. Five British whole pounds and ninety-nine pence!

“…O.k.,” I thought grudgingly, “This language app better be worth it, I tell ya!”

So as I made my merry way home on the train, I listened to a French woman telling me in English to sit back, relax, enjoy the music, listen to the words, and see what happens.

The music started to play and I listened intently to the English man and the French woman flirting with each other, saying the phrases to the rhythm of the music.

It’s catchy, too catchy, and before too long, what started off as me silently mouthing the words, turned into me mumbling ‘un kafeh oh leh’ (un café au lait/ a coffee with milk) out loud.

The woman sitting next me looked uncomfortable, and slowly moved away from me. Oh well, more space for me.

My knowledge of French before this magic app, apart from the obvious hello/goodbye, etc. malarkey, was limited to the following useless random words/phrases thanks to rote learning:

Poisson rouge– gold fish- (I liked the sound)

Pain au chocolat– (Food)

La maison– house (I liked saying it)

Écouter de la musique– to listen to music (I think I liked saying it)

aller à la plage– to go to the beach (This and the next two phrases were bunched together in a group)

aller à la piscine– to go to the swimming pool

aller à la patinoire– to go to the ice rink

Je suis anglais– I’m English (Always useful)

J’ai douze ans– I’m 12 years old (This was my favourite phrase to fall back on if I ran out of French words. I learnt French for a year when I was 12- when I do automatically repeat this, people just laugh for some reason)

But with the help of this app, I was picking French up relatively quickly.

For example, when I tried to speak German with a friend, she told me I had a French accent.

I even woke up one day, and had the music playing in my head with the phrase ‘don luh sontr veel’ (dans le centre-ville/ to the city centre) in my head. The ‘earworm’ worked- huzzah!

It was time. I was ready.

So with zest and a spring in my step, I set off to Paris, determined to use my French. And to see mon mec, of course.

I went into a bakery determined to order something in French.

“Bonjour! Je voudrais deux pain au chocolat et un croissant s’il vous plait.”

The lady smiled and went to get my order. She understood- HA!

I felt great, so great in fact that I blurted out in English to Monsieur L-O: “I did it, I DID IT!!!” and I smiled with my signature stupid grin.

The other customers obviously overheard and smiled knowingly. They probably thought, silly little English girl, bravo for stringing a sentence together.

However, when I was still feeling pleased with myself, the lady came back to me and said something to me in French.

I quickly deflated. What did she mean?? I stared back blankly, then looked over to Monsieur L-O for some help.

He responded and then everything was right in the world.

I did try to speak French when I was by myself at the train station, but the lady just responded to me in English- spoil sport.

It’s reported that Fabio Capello claimed he only needed 100 words to manage the English football team. I’m not sure he needs more than that to be honest- don’t hurt me!

I don’t know if I’ve reached the 100-words barrier yet, and I can’t be bothered to count the words either.

But, since I’m down with the kids, it’s only right that I leave you with a random ‘cool French’ phrase from the Beeb’s website: “J’ai les boules” (completed with the appropriate gesture).

How to break the ice on the tube

This is by no means an extensive list. In fact, it’s not even a list at all, it’s just something I witnessed recently.

So, there I was listening to an Englishman and a French woman flirt on my iPhone when a young lady stepped onto the train cradling sort of white small dog in her arms.

It was nothing to write home about, so I dismissed what I saw and carried on listening to the ‘I would like’ chapter of my French app.

With nothing else to look at on my journey, my eyes rested on the dog.

“But wheeeyyyyyytttt,” I thought, as said by my mum in her Jamaican accent [translation: but wait, hold on a minute]. “That dog has massive ears!”

Then I noticed the whiskers, and low and behold, it was actually a white rabbit with grey spots- on an orange LEASH with yellow flowers!

A leash- by Jove, that woman actually walks that thing!

Is it a fast hopper? Does it go in the direction she wants it to go in? Does it listen to commands? Can it do tricks? Would it poo in her arms at any minute?

These questions rapidly raced through my mind, and, I’m sure, the minds of my fellow passengers on the packed central line train.

People’s reactions to the rabbit were even more interesting to watch though, because, you know, it wasn’t really moving around or anything.

Some pretended not to notice- as if they’ve seen that all before or they shouldn’t be entertaining such behaviour. “I’m too sophisticated to notice such folly, yesss,” they faces seemed to say.

One woman looked on with disgust, which was understandable because if Roger (yes Roger, even though it was a female) pooed or farted, then she would be in the firing line. So she moved to the other side of the carriage.

But most people pointed and actually smiled! And it sparked a full blown conversation between two strangers! Mind you, the discussion wasn’t about feasible solutions on how to end world poverty, but it was something meaningful nonetheless.

It got me thinking. Does it really take something as peculiar as a rabbit on a leash to get a few people to loosen up and be friendly on a daily commute? Maybe I should invest in a penguin.

When the lady got off the train, I must admit, I strained my neck to try and catch a glimpse of the rabbit hopping along the platform. Alas, it did not happen.

The whole scenario did lift my spirits though. Then as I exited the station to go home I was greeted by Batman and Robin giving out Fitness First flyers. Fun times.

“Sandwich man!”

You know those days when you suddenly wake up to the incessant sound of ringing in your ears, or in my case quacking.

You feel groggy. Your eyes eventually readjust to the luminous red flashing lights of 06:20 glaring at you. ‘Get up’ it says, ‘get up’!

You realise it’s Monday morning. You groan, and you quickly proceed to press the snooze button, or, as in my case, you reset your alarm to half an hour later.

As a result of those extra winks in bed, you rush around like a headless chicken getting washed and dressed.

You manage to gulp down some sort of hot beverage (a hot chocolate for me), and then run to the bus stop with lots of pauses in between to catch your breath, of course.

You just about manage to get on the bus at said bus stop and then you make your ‘merry’ way to the tube station to join your fellow gloomy-looking commuters on a packed tube carriage.

Once everyone reaches their appointed destinations, like a throng of zombies, we slowly walk towards the barriers to take those dreaded steps to work.

As soon as you reach work, the obligatory small talk with your associates about the weekend begins. It’s a clumsy, yet well rehearsed, short dance routine. Yawn.

You then go through your monotonous work duties. You’re amazed at how quickly you slip back into that mode as if you never even had two days off at all.

Nevertheless, time seems to run at a snails pace as only 10 minutes have passed, and counting.

…But wait, you hear the elevator bell ring, and in anticipation your ears suddenly develop an acute sensitivity, listening for the faintest of sounds.

Drat, it’s only the postman making his delivery. Next time, you hope, next time…

You listen out for the next person to make their entrance from the elevator.

Then, then, when you had given up all hope, you hear a high-pitched voice exclaim “Morning! Sandwich man!”, and it has the same sort of pied piper effect that the music from an ice cream van has on children. And me.

Good news!!! He is the bringer of all things junk and potentially artery clogging to all men (and women). But more than that, he is a welcomed pause to an über long morning.

The curly-haired short man with his basket of goodies marks the promise of the long-awaited lunch break, and maybe, just maybe provides a glimmer of hope to the treasured home time, which glistens in the distance.

We are pretty much halfway through the morning till lunchtime, hoorah!! Yes, I can see that light at the end of the tunnel, I can SEE it, my son!

But alas, when he comes at 10:50 something, because he is late, as per, this still only signals that there are another 2 or so hours to go until that glorious hour-long break.

You only started at 9. Oh joy…