Shortcutting… Commutting

22 May

Having been unfortunate enough to endure severe delays on the tube this morning (i.e. waiting for my usual train for 20 minutes longer than usual and then having to squeeze in tuna-style when it finally arrived), it has occurred to me that the world needs a guide to surviving the daily dice with death (or at least insanity) that is commuting.

First and foremost, always remember that one of the many joys of public transport is its unpredictability, so it is important to factor in about 15 minutes for potential delays. Also, it’s a good idea to try and keep updated yourself – I have been told that there is ‘an app for that’ but personally I find the old world wide web reliable enough: us Londoners have the wonderful TFL website with all the latest travel news, (also good for checking out alternative routes to your destination and probable journey times) and I imagine other cities have something similar. While it is lovely to be greeted early on a Monday morning with the news that there are severe delays ‘due to a person under a train at Baker Street’, I personally prefer to have a bit of a heads up.

The next challenge of the commute is the all-important getting a seat. Choosing one small group of people to stand next to in the hope one gets off soon is a rookie’s best option, but it is bit of a gamble. For the more experienced commuter, it might be an idea to start remembering the faces of your fellow commuters to get a sense of who gets off where. I would however advise against recording it in a notebook unless you’re absolutely certain no one’s looking over your shoulder. Those commuters are a nosy bunch. Also, don’t hesitate to give up your seat for the elderly and pregnant (slightly risky): if the warm feeling isn’t enough, you will win the respect of your fellow passengers and the next seat to become available will be yours for the taking anyway. If your commute is a regular one don’t underestimate the importance of this respect.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have to squeeze it, there are some ground rules. Firstly, try to face someone’s back if possible. This makes it much less awkward if the train stops suddenly and you fall on top of them. Another piece of advice is standing on the side where the doors don’t open, as then you can have your back against them and maintain your territory. If the doors keep changing sides, try making your way to one end of the carriage, for similar leaning reasons. Finally, beware the holding-on-above-you, sweaty-armpit man. Nuff said.

One final note about entertainment while travelling. If you like reading, try and choose something that looks intellectual. You may have heard the expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. On the commute, this does not apply. You will be judged. If listening to music, keep the volume down or face the wrath of those around you. They probably won’t say anything, but they’ll be thinking baaaad thoughts. Also, if the person next to you is reading a paper, try not to read over their shoulder. This seems to piss people off.

You have reached your destination.

Keep shortcutting,


4 Responses to “Shortcutting… Commutting”

  1. Chris Biscuits July 14, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    With the right attitude, a tube squeeze can become human tertris, as everyone tries to lean their groins away from each other. Once, from the platform, I saw the doors close on a man’s head four times. He’d decided he was clever and important enough to not wait two minutes and paid the price, delaying his train in the process. Everybody had a good laugh at his expense, and commuter bonds were formed that day.

    • shortcutting July 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      A heart-warming story. I agree that having the right attitude is key to taking on the London Underground – it should be viewed not as a commute but rather a game, where closing doors are obstacles to be dodged. This man lost four lives, should’ve been game over really.

      • Chris Biscuits July 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

        The end of level boss could be a plain clothes ticket inspector. This thing writes itself.

        That ad campaign is a little obtuse; ‘Spotting a ticket inspector is easy – they look just like you.’ If I saw someone who looked just like me I’d run a mile, ticket or none. That’d be some scary stuff.

        • shortcutting July 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

          Hmm yes, it would appear that the London Underground are using our Oyster Cards to clone us to create a cheaper workforce… I guess if it makes them strike less, we can’t complain!

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