Wednesday, 11 January 2012

If I go missing

If at any point I don't show up for work, it may not be due to a cancelled train. Please question my fellow passengers. There is a man that gets on at the same station and very often sits in the row in front of my table, so that he is facing me. I have lost count of the number of times I've looked up to catch him staring intensely at me through the crack in the seats like a modified Kilroy. He's middle aged, balding and wears thick glasses and big headphones. I shall dub him Hard Stare Guy.

I've recently changed my preferred carriage. Now that there are regularly 4 carriages, I can avoid the Office Workers from Hell. Either Hard Stare Man has done the same thing, or he's following me.

There are very few other regular commuters with whom I haven't exchanged pleasantries or little wry comments over the years, or even just a little nod. Fragrant Nescafé Guy never speaks other than to exchange a gruff ETA with his wife/mother on the phone, but even he gives me a nod of recognition occasionally. Not Hard Stare Man though. He never does anything but stare.

When I catch him staring, he never looks sheepish or smiles. I don't think he's flirting. He looks more like the guy you wouldn't want to meet out jogging on your own. Every time I catch him looking at me, I hear the "donk donk" from an episode of Law & Order.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Travel etiquette reprise

It appears that the rules have not been circulated to all travelers, so it may be time for a gentle reminder. This sort of thing applies not only to trains, but also to airplanes, buses, waiting rooms, and anywhere that strangers are forced to sit near each other in confined spaces. Here are some of my top tips for trying not to be a traveling douchebag.

Selecting a seat: If there are other empty seats, I avoid sitting directly next to or directly facing someone who is already seated. When opposite, you take up valuable leg room. Sitting right next to someone when there is other space available just seems creepy and weird.

Conversations: Unless it's an emergency, don't bother someone who is working, reading, lost in thought sleeping, or has headphones in. If you have exchanged several looks with a person that indicate a conversation would be welcome (about a delay, the weather, or whatever), then try it. If the person is monosyllabic, just accept that pleasantries are fine and the other person probably doesn't want to commit to conversing with you for the duration of the voyage.
Space: I can't stress this one enough. The central armchair is a buffer. It is a divider. It belongs to neither person, and should never be used. The minute your arm is on that central space, you've taken up more than your fair share. If everyone used the outer ones, nobody would have the unpleasant experience of having a stranger's flabby, unwashed wool encased bicep in her face. Not that this scenario occurred for over an hour this morning or anything. If this does happen to you, I suggest a bit of passive-aggressive shifting of one's weight so that the armrest gets repeatedly bumped from underneath and the offender's typing gets screwed up a few times. He'll stop.
Leg space: When facing someone, either keep your feet to your allocated imaginary half of the space, or carefully and consensually negotiate the interlocking spaces to increase leg room for each person, but Do Not Touch the other person.

Seat space: I am an appropriate BMI for my height. Therefore I do not take up the entire seat. However, I have paid for it. I enjoy the whole seat. If you are too big for your seat, please do not feel that this entitles you to spill into mine. It is your responsibility to either pay for an additional seat for your other butt cheek, or spill it into the aisle and risk the battering of the trolley and passing suitcases. Your ass, your peril.
Hygeine: Bathe yourself daily and use deodorant. Avoid perfumes. You may love your rose and bergamot spritz and your jasmine hand cream, but I can assure you that nobody else wants to be oppressed by a cloud of your woodsy musk or floral tones. Wash your clothes, including suits and outerwear often. In a warm and crowded space, the smell of damp, of old cigarettes, old sweat, pets, ass, and general city smells is enough to make people hurl. Also, don't fart. Keep that shit to yourself.

Illness: Cover your mouth when you cough. Use the inside of your elbow. Coughing through the hole in your fist and then touching the table with it spreads germs. Blow your nose and then dispose of the tissue. That snarfing snot noise or sniffling repeatedly is gross and may just drive someone to start drinking at 8am.

Noise: generally, it's a good rule of thumb to simply STFU. Despite the audience in your head, nobody actually wants to be made aware of your existence when they are travelling. Get off the phone. Speak quietly to companions. If you take your earbuds out of your ears and can still hear the music, it's too loud.
Follow these simple rules, and you are less likely to be killed by some crazed academic who has reached the end of her tether.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel

I am pleased to announce that Constance has a terminal illness. Figuratively speaking, but thanks for your concern.
I've accepted a job that does not involve commuting or public transport. It does require an international move and the upheaval of my family, but no trains. I gave notice that I will be leaving at the end of April. It now feels like there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I can't see it right now, largely because the train is stuck in an actual tunnel, but you know what I mean.

Earbud Avenging again

Another successful mission from the Earbud Avenger! Dun da dun!
The middle-aged lady's music was so loud from 4 rows away that people were turning around to find the offender. When I approached her to ask her to turn it down, I tried several times saying, "excuse me, ma'am" with increasing volume, before eventually resorting to tapping on the seat back in front of her and waving my arms around. When I told her that her music was very loud, she shouted, "Really?!" with an incredulous face.
She must have gotten her first iPod from her kids for Christmas or something, because it took her a good 2-3 minutes of fadfing with it to figure out the volume settings. Pleasant smiles from other passengers, though so it was a good result.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2012 is business as usual

Today is January 3rd, and I'm on my third delayed train of the year. I only started traveling again today. As I stood in the freezing cold watching the delay time increase incrementally on the platform display, it was clear that this year would carry on much in the same way as 2011.

Weirdly, although my morning train departed 15 minutes late, it somehow arrived on time. When I got to work, I was one of approximately 4 people in the whole building. I decided to spend an extra hour with my family rather than in silence since my colleagues all opted to bother showing up at all. Somehow, I missed the 15:52 by about 30 seconds. I got a coffee and then on the 16:22. Some wanker threw a rock through the train's windscreen. Thankfully, the driver was unhurt, but the train had to limp to the next station where the service was cancelled. At this point, I ended up waiting 20 minutes in the freezing cold and caught the next train back. It was the one I'd have been on if I hadn't left early at all.

So, here I sit on my slightly-delayed-as-usual train watching an old man drinking castor oil straight from the bottle and being coughed on by a blonde.

Welcome back, commuters!