Commuting, in some shape or form, comes hand in hand with employment – be it a brisk walk or cycle ride spent battling the elements, a journey aboard a moving sardine-tin (sorry, I meant the Tube) or a traffic-jam filled drive. If you’re not using one of those modes of transport, chances are high that (like me) you have experienced, are experiencing, or will one day experience the joys of a high-cost (and often highly disappointing) commute aboard one of Britain’s trains. You’ll come across all sorts of people with habits both amusing and irritating, and more often than not a decent sense of humour (and a stereotypically British stiff upper lip) is all that will prevent you from losing the plot. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to these nine characters from my commute . . .
#1 | The Brompton Bike Rider
A common sight on rush-hour services into London, this Lycra-clad specimen is either considerate or downright inconsiderate; there is no middle ground. One will board with their bike already folded, then stow it away on the luggage rack or in front of the bin, where no passenger wants to stand or sit if they can help it. The other will ride their bike down the platform, collapse (or semi-collapse) it on board and look disgruntled if a passenger happens to be stood where they would normally abandon their bike. I’ll leave you to work out which is which. Bonus points if you spot one reassembling their bike in the vestibule before disembarking from the train.
#2 | The Deluded One
This is the one who boards a full train, complete with passengers standing cheek by jowl in the vestibule and wonders aloud if there are any seats to be had. Well, if there were, I wouldn’t be standing . . .
#3 | The Clock Watcher
When the train is delayed en route due to overheard wire problems, mechanical faults or broken down trains ahead, this passenger has one thing in mind: Delay Repay. They know how much they’re entitled to for a delay of any length and they’ll ensure the train operator pays out, because they have been inconvenienced by this delay. They’ll spend at least fifteen minutes a week filing Delay Repay claims, but the refunds will never quite compensate for the injustice of paying hundreds of pounds a month only to arrive at work late. (This one is me, in case you were wondering.)
#4 | The Self-Appointed Train DJ
It goes without saying, but you’ll hear this one before you spot it. Usually sporting over-ear headphones, they blast their jingles out to the whole carriage, and not even a passive-aggressive look in their direction will make them realise that the rest of us don’t share their poor taste in music. Bonus points if you catch them singing along.
#5 | The Chatterbox
This fellow is Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Chatterbox personified – though usually suited and booted and minus the hat. Once they’ve rummaged in their bag and located their phone, they’ll launch into a chinwag at top volume, and are often completely oblivious to the fact that everyone in the vicinity can hear half their conversation (and likely figure out the rest). I’m all for minimising wasted time on a commute, but surely it’s not the cleverest idea to take business calls that the whole carriage can earwig on should they so please . . .
#6 | The Seat Hogger
Unlikely to make their way onto the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species any day soon, this thoughtless passenger clogs up additional seats with their belongings or – worse – saves seats for friends who then miss the train. They’re usually engrossed in their phone or another electronic device, and will avoid eye contact or feign deafness when you politely ask if you can take the seat. Bonus points if you manage to shame them into ‘donating’ their spare seat to your worthy cause.
#7 | The Bookworm
With a battered paperback in one hand and a bookmark in the other, this commuter is about as common a sight as a delayed Great Northern train (i.e. very common). They’ll plough through books at a rate of knots, and often have a spare one in their bag just in case they finish a book faster than expected. (I also identify with this one.)
#8 | The Queue Jumper
You know the one I’m talking about here. Your train pulls in. You wait patiently for other passengers to alight. A fellow passenger sidles up behind you. The coast is clear – and they pounce. The seat you had been eyeing up has gone, and the floor beckons. More often than not, a middle-aged self-entitled turnip is the culprit.
#9 | The Camping Stool Genius
Hats off to the guy who boards the train at Letchworth Garden City with a small, portable camping stool in hand – he has got this service and its absence of available seats sussed. Given the chance of getting a seat on the 08:15 service from Cambridge to London King’s Cross is close to zilch, it’s a wonder there aren’t more people following in his footsteps. (That said, the fact that you have to bring your own seat if you don’t fancy standing up speaks volumes about the rush-hour services run by operators wanting to decrease their costs and increase their profits.)
Have you met the likes of these on your commute?