Christmas Commuting Baggage

It’s that time of year when the herd is migrating, taking with them their luggage. It is a seasonal thing that tends to occur in the month of December each year. They pack themselves onto trains and buses with bulging bags, while at the same time struggle to control this sudden explosion of merchandise. This is, of course, Christmas.

But why this last minute rush? It is a little known fact that Christmas actually starts in October. I recently heard that this is the time that Mary went into labour – it was, quite obviously, a long and painful birth (3 months!) that culminated on Christmas Day. This was followed by Boxing Day, so called because after her recent traumatic experience Mary punched anybody who asked how she felt. Who can blame her, it would have been a bloody stupid question. That is my theory on why Christmas lasts so long and why shops start advertising so early, but I am also open to the proposition that it is a crass commercial strategy aimed at relieving us of our hard-earned cash. They give us three months to feel guilty that we will not buy as good a present for someone as the one we will get from them. Quick, spend more…and more…and more. But enough of this philosophising, back to commuters and their baggage.

If you commute and you are going to shop for lots of presents on one day, why would you take public transport on that day? Why not take your car into the city and pay for a day’s parking? Have you no thought for those poor people around you? Clambering on to public transport to squeeze into the usual tight and heaving throng, while at the same time smashing bags and boxes into unsuspecting commuters who have already had a trying day and do not need any more grief, is not appropriate behaviour. Don’t be such a twat and consider other people.

Just last week I saw a newspaper taken clean out of the hands of a zombie-like banker just as he was getting ecstatic over the financial pages, and also an errant box catching a smartly dressed lawyer flush in the face as she sat reading her book (after careful and considerable thought I think that even though she was a lawyer, it was still unacceptable to smash her face in). The person concerned was blissfully unaware of the carnage he was causing as he cut a swathe through the train carriage on the way to a seat, where he then proceeded to dump half his bags on the woman in the adjacent seat. What a tosser! It is people like this that take up enough space for three people when they stand on rush-hour trains, leaving worthy commuters like you and me stranded on a platform for another 10 minutes.

Perhaps there should be an extra charge in such circumstances, a Baggage Twat Levy that people have to pay to take their load onto a bus or train. Another option is that it could be managed the same way as they manage cabin luggage at airports – if you don’t fit through a specially designed frame, you have to jettison items of luggage until you do.

We should all remember that Christmas is a time of giving, but festive commuters should realise that this giving should not extend to giving your fellow commuters broken noses, bruises and permanent nervous tics. So, if you insist on doing your festive shopping on one day, just stay the fuck away from public transport. Take your car and cop the extortionate parking cost on the chin. This prevents others copping your boxes and bags on the chin and limits the havoc on the train or bus to normal levels. Better still, why not get organised and get your presents in ones and twos over a number of days  – it’s not rocket science!

Of course, once Christmas is over, we can start looking forward to Easter, which I believe begins in mid-January – the time when Jesus was actually killed. My understanding is that he was quickly interred and then resurrected, but that nobody could remove the rock to see if he had indeed risen. It took three whole months for a specifically constituted committee to decide:

a)    On the need to gather such evidence and find out for sure;

b)    That removing the rock that blocked the entrance to the cave was the best way to find out; and

c)    How to engineer the moving of said rock.

At least that’s my theory about why the shops start putting Easter eggs out in January…perhaps you have another one.

The joy of mobile phones

Like me, you may well have been on the receiving end of the mobile phone user. You know the one I mean – the one who annoys the shit out of you by talking into your ear on public transport whether you like it or not. They sit in the bus or train and find ways to annoy other passengers without any seeming effort, unabe to get it into their heads that they are incredibly rude and inconsiderate of others. This makes me very grumpy. There are a number of main types of these and you may recognise some, if not all, of them.

Mobile Drone

This person has a non-stop and seemingly endless conversation on their phone. They probably sit next to you or just behind you enabling you get the full benefit of their teeth-grindingly boring voice.  You will probably end up clenching your jaw so tight that you’ll need to take your food through a straw for at least a week after such an encounter. The droning monotone may also cause your brain to seize and become incapable of proper function for a few hours. This is a well known tactic of the security services so you may actually be the target of a covert operation as a person of interest in terms of national security. Or the person behind you could just be a boring twat with no personality.

Mobile Drama

Usually, but not always, a young girl with a piercing voice who explodes into laughter, tears, ecstasy and any number of other emotions while talking to her numerous friends and acquaintances on her phone. She sits quietly talking on the bus or train before scaring the willies out of everybody nearby by unexpectedly erupting with squeal of delight or horror. She may also laugh hysterically at random intervals. This person ends up speaking very loudly and telling the whole bus or train carriage about her problems with her ex-boyfriend, sexual adventures with her current boyfriend, dramas with her mother, father, best friend, dog, cat, rat, husband, lover etc etc. While initially entertaining, the drama eventually becomes tiring and you’d cheerfully wring her neck just to shut her up.

Mobile Twat

This loud, selfish, and obnoxious person is totally obsessed with themselves. They are also obsessed with their mobile phone and can’t spend more than 5 minutes without feeling the need to call somebody. They will phone work to give people an update on their current location, phone their partner to say the same, phone their mate to check that lunch is still on for next Thursday, phone their mum to them that they are on their way to work, phone work on their way home to check that they haven’t been forgotten in the 15 minutes that they have been out of the office. They are very insecure people who should be shot as a public service – but you should resist the urge to punch them, and hope somebody else takes the lead, or at least gently removes the phone from their hand and throws it out of the window while at the same time yelling rather hysterically, ‘You’re not that important you stupid fuckwit!’

Mobile Autobiography

This person tells their life story by way of speaking on the phone. As you sit in your seat trying to concentrate on your book or the newspaper, they tell the unfortunate person on the other end of the phone every intimate detail of what they have done so far that day, including what they had for breakfast, what time they left the house, the conversation they had with their partner (this is often repeated word for word), and what happened the previous day. This takes some considerable time. Following this, and just when you think there is some relief in sight, they then go on to talk about their itinerary for the coming day at work and then what they might well be doing that evening. This phone call will go on and on and on and on…etc.

 Mobile Rustler

This has nothing to do cattle. The rustler has a phone secreted somewhere on their person or in their bag. It will have a really annoying ring-tone, usually something like the Birdie Song, the theme from Mission Impossible, or any other bit music that is crass, twee, or just plain shit. It will start ringing, causing everybody in the bus or train to look around to see who could possibly have thought that the ringtone would have been a good idea. The rustler will then start to systematically search through their belongings to find the offending item, a process that will take a while. The phone will stop ringing just when they are pulling it out of the last hidden recess that they thought of looking. They will then return it to their person and immediately forget where they put it.

Mobile Whisperer

Avoid this person, they are probably a nutter. They sit crouched over muttering into their phone, which may or may not be switched on. If you find yourself sitting next to a whisperer you should ignore them, despite the unsettling nature of the one-way conversation happening next to you.

Watch out for these people. If you find yourself near any of them I recommend you put in earplugs.

Commuter Etiquette – Eye Contact

In response to a request from a concerned reader I have written a short piece on the thorny issue of eye contact.

Many people ask me about eye contact when travelling public transport and what is appropriate. They say, ‘George, yesterday I got punched out on the train. What did I do wrong?’

There are many reasons why you might have been punched on the train, some of which might have nothing to do with eye-contact. Perhaps you were in the wrong seat, perhaps your assailant was just off their face on drugs or alcohol, or perhaps you are just one of those people that has ‘hit me – I deserve it’’ written all over you. However, the most likely reason is that you looked at the wrong person.

How can this be avoided?  Well, I admit that there are times when you find yourself looking at someone without consciously doing so. So, is person likely to hit for doing so? Well, there always a number of clues to consider in this situation:

  • If you are male and you find yourself looking at a woman’s breasts, does she have an incredibly large and angry looking boyfriend? If the answer is yes, then you could be in physical danger. If she doesn’t well you’ll probably be OK, unless she gets angry at your lecherous leering and slaps you herself. You probably deserve that.
  •  If they have ‘Millwall’ or ‘Chelsea’ or any other football club name tattooed on their forehead, or even the words ‘stitch this’, then I recommend you avoid eye contact at all costs unless you have very comprehensive health insurance or a deathwish.
  •  If the person is being loud and obnoxious staggering around, muttering to themselves in self-obsessed kind of way, or giggling semi-hysterically, I recommend you avoid eye-contact because even if they don’t assault you, they may do something worse – try to engage you in conversation.
  •  If they are a normal person, they will either give you an embarrassed smile or just look away and pretend that they were not looking in your direction at all. You should do the same as them. You’ll feel like a real dickhead if you end up smiling at someone who is no longer looking at you.

But what about the nutters? There are some real weirdos who travel on public transport. If you are not careful you’ll end up being cornered be the crackpot who has made eye contact with you and believes that you now his/her new best friend. This is a situation you want to avoid – believe me, I know. Before you can say ‘Fuck off you insane tosser’ you’ll be engaged in a deep conversation about how their can of soup is in fact a dangerous chemical weapon, or how ‘they’ are point rays at you to dissolve your brain and make you into a compliant drone to serve the government, or perhaps even that they not of this world (a fact that you may be in agreement with) and offering you a free trip to Alpha Centauri. Nutters hide in all sorts of disguises, so I suggest that you avoid eye contact with everybody top avoid this sort of thing occurring.

The safest thing to do on public transport is to stick your head in a book or the newspaper, blot out all distraction with a pair of headphones blaring music, and concentrate furiously on anything but the people around you – unless of course you know the person sitting next to you. In this case some limited conversation is permitted, but with all ‘bus’ or ‘train friends’, you should be aware that you probably don’t know that much about them and they could indeed be a Russian ‘Sleeper spy’, international terrorist, or mass murderer. You can’t be too careful these days.

Eye contact should therefore be avoided if at all possible. It’s quite simple really.

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