Friday, March 23, 2007

Confessions of a Grumpy Commuter

I have a confession to make. I am no better than the rest of them. I may pretend (to myself as much as to anyone else) that I am, in fact, fundamentally a nice person and well above all that nastiness and pettiness that commuting seems to bring out in people, but it is not true. This was brought home to me on Monday morning, as I boarded the 07:51 train to Kings Cross.

It was a Monday morning, and I was very tired, having not slept terribly well over the weekend. And I was provoked. At least, I felt provoked. The guy who was provoking me probably didn’t think he was being provocative, but that’s how I read it. All mitigating circumstances, to be sure, but not sufficient to hide behind: everyone could surely point to such mitigation every single day when they shove in front of someone, fold their newspaper the moment they suspect someone else may be reading it, or just scowl at someone on the train just because they happen to make eye contact.

What happened was this. I had got to the station quite early, having left the house five minutes or so ahead of schedule. Taking up a position just behind the yellow line, in between the two chaps who were there ahead of me, I suddenly realised that I was vulnerable to people piling in from the side, who often get in front of those in the centre of the doors. So I decided to be smart, and moved around to stand side by side with one of the other guys (the one on the left, to be prccise). Minutes passed, and as the clock reached ten to eight, there was a sudden influx – a group of about five passengers arrived and stood behind the other two. Young, tall, confident-looking – I took an instant dislike to them. To make matters worse, three of them seemed to know each other, and started laughing and joking together. Then one of them, a tall ginger bloke, caught my eye, and I swear it was a dirty look he gave me (in retrospect, it was just a look, and barely even that, but I was feeling insecure). I fumed.

Then the train turned up, and the carriage rumbled to a halt with the doors right in front of the other two guys, and by extension my tall ginger nemesis too. Steaming with rage, I turned, put my head down, and advanced. The ginger guy actually got on first, after the guy I’d stood next to., but I was damned if I was going to let his young lady get in front of me too – after all, I had been there fully five minutes before them. He caught me with the strap of his rucksack as I forged in behind him, and the jolted me back to reality. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I felt very foolish, and realised hoe childishly I had been behaving.

I’ve been feeling ashamed all week, salving my conscience by pointedly ignoring free seats on the bus and letting other people take them instead. I think I need a holiday.

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