The Southern Rail Blues

It was all going so well. I was almost, dare I say, enjoying it. And then the nasty lil imp that was yesterday put two great big splotchy stains on it and firmly banished it into that part of my brain that’s labelled ‘Things We Dislike’. By it, I am of course referring to my commute.

Things were great. My body’s started to accept getting up at 6.15am so that the mornings are gradually less painful. This morning I was even awake enough to do winged eyeliner before leaving the house. I’d learnt where exactly to stand in the morning to be right in front of the opening door, and which carriage to get on to almost guarantee a seat (albeit always in the same carriage as the man who has decided that the morning commute is the perfect time to phone his relatives and have a big long chat. Every. Single. Morning). I’ve established which carriage to sit in on the way home to be right in front of the station exit. I’ve found some podcasts I like, I’ve gotten very skilled at weaving through unbearably slow people in Victoria Station. I’ve developed Resting Commuter Face (although I fear sometimes mine is a touch too far on the murderous side. I really don’t like slow walkers). I was chill.

And then, pals, lads, readers (all three of you), several small niggles began to appear. Some numpty on the tube decided to re-tie his shoe in a very crowded carriage, and when he straightened up he headbutted me in the chest. A man sat next to me on the train home and opened up the foulest smelling sandwich I’ve ever encountered, and then took half an hour to eat the damn thing. Small irritations, manageable, but pushing me closer to the precipice of rage.

Yesterday tipped me over the edge, and they weren’t huge problems, in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t get stuck in London overnight. I didn’t have to get on any always-slightly-too-cold rail replacement buses. I was in fact only three minutes late to work. But it was the final straw for my teetering acceptance of the commuter life. In the morning, my train driver decided he wanted to take a leisurely drive into London, so I was ten minutes late into Victoria, at which point I discovered that they’d closed off the tube entrance. Temporarily, to avoid overcrowding, I expect, but by the time I’d noticed, having joined the queue at the entrance, I was already trapped there by rows of other people behind me and was forced to text my boss and wait it out in a crush of people who didn’t seem to understand that you won’t miss a train if you stand just 30 centimetres further away from my personal space.

The evening was worse. I was a little bit late leaving work, so I had to hack it through the station to fling myself onto the train…which then sat there, not going anywhere, radio silence for a good ten minutes past our scheduled departure time before we were informed that there was a problem with the doors and we ‘wouldn’t be moving any time soon’. I was fortunate in that my season ticket allows me on the Gatwick Express, so I hopped on that and then changed at Gatwick, but I have no idea how long some people were stuck there. It was the end of the day, I was already frazzled from the morning’s nonsense and a surprisingly busy day at work, and that just topped it all off. Commuting is dead to me.

It’s not really, of course, because I still have to do it in order to keep my job, and I’d quite like to keep this one. But I’m not going to enjoy it. Much. I think it brings out one of my worst sides – a friend of mine texted me earlier to tell me she’d seen me dashing through Victoria station with single minded focus on getting onto my preferred train carriage, and I was gutted that I hadn’t spotted her. I haven’t seen her in a year! Commuting makes me grumpy, and other commuters are often rude which makes me rude too. All barging elbows and mutterings and yanking down the arm rest to divide seats because heaven forbid your arm brush against mine. Still got a bruise, thanks mate. None of us are pleasant people when we commute, and it worries me a little that sometimes I struggle to shake it off. I’ll get home and be moody for the evening, which is a waste of what precious little time I have that’s not spent at work or on a busy train. I need to work on leaving it behind when I get in my car.

That said, the one bright spot is that it has afforded me a good time slot to read. I spent a lot of my time at university wailing that I had so much academic reading to do that there was no time to read for personal enjoyment, and I fell out of the habit and struggled to get back into it with my hard-to-please brain always losing focus and flipping between Netflix and Twitter and Buzzfeed and never concentrating for more than five minutes on one thing. The commute has at least tempered that – the hour on the train is a good chunk of time to read with no other distractions, and I’m getting through books at a fair rate! Silver linings and all that.

Until next time, K.

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