It’s finally time to share this with the world. I’ve bottled it up for too long. One woman alone should not have to bear the burden of such horror. So here it is. The story. Of my commute.
I don’t know if you’ve ever suffered South Eastern trains, but let’s call them the neanderthals, the Towie cast of the train world. Those fat cat geniuses at TFL couldn’t connect us southerners with each other, oh no. They figured as long as they connected us all with two stations in Central London, we could sort ourselves out from there. Which has a certain (arrogant) logic to it, but unfortunately results in a carriage chock-a-block with every Tom Dick and bloody Harry travelling round the corner to Clapham, straight on to Watford or way west all the way down to Ealing Broadway. I have fallen on people, coughed in one poor girl’s face (it came out of nowhere, we were both shocked), read a man’s book with him, watched Family Guy over a kid’s shoulder – I’ve even broken that cardinal rule and had a conversation with someone. (When you’re close enough to be almost having sex with a stranger, it’s polite to at least discuss The Rosie Project while you bump uglies).
I’ve been the girl that, faced with a packed train from the platform, has gasped in (restrained) horror (stiff upper lip locked in place) and have proceeded to leg it down the train in search of a spare inch on any other carriage. I have since become the girl who simply pushes on anyway, finding space in the squidgy nooks and crannies of sweating strangers. I have tried to avoid that slippery, germ-ridden pole more times than I can count, with a 99% stumble rate. I have witnessed arguments over windows, awkward intimate flirting, sudden bursts of music (from earphones slipping out of iPods to the embarrassed fumbling of the red-faced owner) and I am well used to those uncomfortable conversations between acquaintances cheek to cheek, groin to groin, making small talk. Sounds like a great deal, Terry, I bet you can’t wait to get on the plane. Can you move your nose out of my eye, though, please?
It’s a daily struggle and it’s easy to let it get the best of you. We’ve all done the cruel bag-to-the-face tactic to fit onto the heaving escalators or the bursting carriage before our unfortunate short-ass victim. We’ve all huffed and stomped past a tourist who stops suddenly in front of us, lost, alone and baffled at our resulting rage.
These days, I have the opposite reaction. It’s nice to see someone that’s not caught up in that bonkers rush hour crush, to see an unsuited, caj as anything wanderer caught up in the stampede, like poor Simba in the dreaded wildebeest scene. I like to find the funnies instead of stamping my feet like a toddler that’s dropped their ice cream. And on these trains, that’s not so hard.
When a woman get’s caught half on, half off a train, her legs perfectly grounded but her head blackened by the doors that have slammed repeatedly into her cheeks – it doesn’t matter that she’s delayed your journey by half a minute. Because the whole spectacle is so slapstick, she’s given you your story for the week and your belly laugh of the day. Especially if she happens to be of the slightly larger persuasion (I’m sorry folks but we all know fatter is funnier).
I have a dream, ladies and gentleman, and that dream is to laugh on my daily commute to work with all you sad sacks and smelly strangers. The next stop is Cockfosters, for goodness sake, so please keep your belongings with you when leaving the train and do yourself a favour – find a smile as you go.