At the time of drafting, I’m still very new to the whole ‘going to school in a choo-choo’ lark and the novelty has far from worn off. After 3 years of bus drudgery, the fact that my journey time has gone from an hour to 20 mins or that door to door time has gone from 2 hours to one is nothing short of wondrous. Add to that the smooth, silent train sliding through pastoral scenes to alight at equally picturesque stations, and it’s all I can do not to sit there inanely grinning like a loon.
I am becoming aware of the in-carriage laws, and am realising that in order not to look like a day tripper or escapee, there are commuting rules to observe:
No smiling unless barking down a phone to someone, or possibly no one.
No talking, unless relentlessly gassing to your companion to prove you have a life beyond work, of a subject even you are secretly boring yourself with (every Michael Jackson LP you ever owned, its provenance and track by track analysis) while making all your fellow passengers fight the urge to flee to another compartment, at one of two volumes: audible-yet-indistinguishable, or transcending even the most powerful earphone/tannoy combo.
Annoyingly, I have never seen a nintendo being deployed-not sure why; presumably considered immature. All games must seemingly be played on the latest hi-tech, remortgagingly expensive, fruit-based communications devices and provide minimal-to-no entertainment. Even better if you can adopt an air of being mildly bored/annoyed by your own game of choice.
No-one seems to eat other than in extreme conditions, especially not flasks or picnics, apparently. Never homemade. Anything to be consumed must have cost at least as much as the journey itself, be in a polystyrene cup, or designer paper bag, heated to the temperature of the Earth’s core, rendering it life-threateningly hazardous before cooling to setting point (there is a very small window of edibility before this happens).
Earphones are allowed, and podcasts are my preference, but it seems imperative to maintain a glazed, disinterested expression and not react to the content in any way, facially, vocally or by flailing about rhythmically. This has meant an embargo on Erasure’s greatest hits, at least until I become a proper commuter, lose my sense of humour and can comfortably scowl while immersed in pop
Eye contact is NEVER to be made, especially in the unfortunate situation I found myself in today. I have learnt to adapt quickly and when a most unpleasant smell emanated from the lady next to me, wafted over me and slowly claimed half the train as victim, I copied everyone else and adopted a puzzled frown and look around the carriage, while never catching anyone’s eyes. I can’t believe anyone thought it might be me over the massive heffalump spilling over her own seat and onto mine. Do I look like my diet is so lacking in fibre that I would be capable of what she did to the compartment? Twice.
On that note, my weight is creeping up again. I have decided to Take Myself in Hand. I don’t yet know what this entails exactly, but it feels like it’s a start, and possibly even enough in itself. In fact, I feel so much better for making the decision, that I can relax again. And now I’ve discovered QVC and the two-way stretch polyester slack, the fear has less of a hold over me.
I have one photo to illustrate this post. Noticed at Etchingham station and snapped on my replacement camera (it wasn't me after all), this has appeared outside the new (to me) cafe, which has also appeared since I last got the train last year. To me, it poses more questions than it answers, but I don't really want to investigate, as the truth will surely be duller than any images it conjures up to me:
So, in summary, the commute currently fills me with wonder, is as relaxing as a mini-retreat and joyously lacking in lunatics. Ask me again in December.