Friday, June 15, 2007

a few home truths

It's been a disquieting week. I've been having lots of little epiphanies concerning my place in the commuting world. You know how sometimes you'll chatise someone for doing something and then find yourself doing the same thing an hour later? Well, my week's been a bit like that - I keep catching myself doing all the things I've frequently poked fun at on this blog, and drawing down on myself the same scorn that I bestow on other people. I put it down to the fact that I'm tired, a bit needy and have had one of those weeks, work-wise, where you run really fast in order to stand still.

On Monday, for some unaccountable reason that I can't quite identify, I stood up almost as soon as we had left Stevenage, and suddenly realised that we were at least five minutes from my stop. A couple of other people had got up already, and they were doing the steely-detrmination face that says "Yes, I really did mean to get up ages before my stop, and now I'm going to stand here for ages with a look of steely determination because then I'll be respected far more than if I sat back down." I actually did sit back down (and I'm sure people respected me all the more for it), but it was the start of what was to prove a series of faux pas which have left me feeling far less sure of myself in position as detached observer of commuting behaviour.

This most surreal experience of the week came on Friday night, on my way home from London. I sat down in an aisle seat, next to a girl with a newspaper who seemed to be almost magnetically drawn to the wall of the carriage, so tightly was she hugging it - meaning plenty of room for me to slouch in my own seat without worrying about invading her personal space. I retrieved my laptop from my bag and fired it up - I don't normally take it home on a Friday but I've got lots to get through at the moment - and started tapping away at the keyboard. Normally I'm quite self-conscious in this situation, acutely aware of how noisy each keystroke seems to be, but I was tired and grumpy (and - wouldja believe? - absorbed in my work). After a few minutes, I realised that the girl with the newspaper had started flicking the pages in a very pointed, noisy manner, not even bothering to pretend to read any of them. Instantly I recognised a classic negative revenge tactic, exactly the type (if you'll pardon the pun) of thing I would do if the positions were reversed - creating my own disturbance to counter the one being inflicted on me. It dawned on me - I've gone from being the gamekeeper to being just another poacher. And actually that's no bad thing - just confirms what I've always said - commuting is a great leveller.


At 12:41 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

I suppose it is just an extension of the fact that we all turn into our parents sooner or later... :-)

At 6:49 PM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

You my friend are the Joycian. I've told you before you have a magic, and you've been lifted up to a wise new level- you know I said that and I did not intend to be funny- you see, you're contagious--"Instantly I recognised a classic negative revenge tactic, exactly the type (if you'll pardon the pun)
"You're brilliant man, really."
I said that in my best Dublin accent.
I'm off to the lake for the weekend with the family. Sauna, swimming, eating, drinking..mid-summer is a really big thing over here. Have a nice mid-summer yourself.
Y;-) Paddy

At 11:19 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Rish - very true. I think it might be something to do with Andy Warhol. Or maybe Sigmund Freud.

Paddy - you flatter me. I have only recently been able to appreciate the iner points of Joycean prose after the entire canon was ruined for me by being made to study Dubliners for English (!) A-level. 12 years and a general broadening of literary horizons later (Terry Pratchett is a ganius) I made my peace with JJ in the form of that sprightly-looking statue just off O'Connell Street in Dublin, and the various snatches of literature adorning the walls of the bar at Guinness Storehouse.

Have a fantastic weekend and leave any worries you may have behind you.

At 5:05 PM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Thank you, you are a gentleman. I look forward to having a pint of guinness with you one fine day; perhaps Blooms Day.
the "center of paralysis," and complained in a letter:

"How sick, sick, sick I am of Dublin! It is the city of failure, of rancor and of unhappiness. I long to be out of it." (22 August 1909)JJ. Not so me. I love Dublin.
"I was born and brought up there the laws to abide and that the land that I lived in had God on its side" just ranting off a little into the would of B. Dylan (Thomas) Yes, love it.
Actually my father and brother worked all their lives for Arthur Guinness.
Y;-) Paddy
I was weaned on it you might say.
PS: I knew you were a scholar the day I clapped eyes on yer blog.
Again yours: you too have a good mid-summer this weekend.

At 6:06 AM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

Well I came on here to make a comment about how laptop keystrokes never bother me on a train, but I've just read Paddy's (as usual)insightful comments and feel a bit of a numpty! However you'll have noticed I made the comment anyways...a stubborn numpty?

At 11:00 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

That doesn't make you a numpty - if keystrokes don't bother you then you are quite clearly some kind of saint. I travelled back from Leeds tpday with someone tap-tap-tapping away across from me and I have to say I found it a bit irritating - especially as she was one of those people that really thump the space bar.

I was typing as well, but my digits were gliding balletically over the keys like Darcy Bussell.

At 6:07 AM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Hi JD I bet you're off on holiday somewhere you lucky.... Hello to you and I hop you are well.
Thinking about you
Y;-) Paddy

At 1:46 AM GMT+1 , Blogger singleton said...

I just skipped over from Paddy's to send you a get well card and find myself wallowing on your commuter train.....
I like the ride!

At 5:57 AM GMT+1 , Blogger savannah said...

a get well? *fretting* hope you're feeling better, sugar!

At 6:05 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Bless you all! Am on Penicillin and paracetamol - its a heady mix - and feeling okay. Promis to blog soon! I've got an idea for a post that I'm really looking forward to writing and I want to be feeling my best when I write it!

At 7:48 AM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

Hope you are all better now, 'cos I am looking forward to your next post.


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