Yesterday marked my return to the office after a month in Australia. The change in the weather was hard enough to cope with – going from 30+ degrees and sunshine to 13 degrees and drizzley rain was never going to be pleasant – but the return to commuting was an even more bitter pill to swallow.
Millions of us commute into London every day, not out of choice but necessity. Sitting on a cramped train for two hours every day is unlikely to be most people’s first choice of transport. But the train is, for most people living in the leafy suburbs, the most practical option.
So, ok, none of us love this means of travel. But do we really have to look so depressed about it? And be so rude and unsociable to our fellow passengers? Something mundane and necessary is made all the worse by our attitudes to each other. In the mind of the average commuter the abiding motto seems to be ‘get out of my bloody way!’, an outlook on life that’s unlikely to make for social harmony or smiles on faces.
The hard-nosed commuter persona is, of course, a mask for most of us; something we slip on to cope with the trauma of being thrown into a metropolitan transport system that is creaking at the seams. By ignoring our fellow passengers, plugging in our headphones and burying our noses in an iPad/Kindle/Blackberry we can retreat into ourselves and endure even the most vexing of commutes.
But wouldn’t it be nicer if, just occasionally, we tried something different? We could – shock horror – actually talk to each other and even look each other in the eye and smile. The sour-faced routine isn’t compulsory, just commonplace.
So, next time your train is delayed, maybe try having a conversation. It won’t kill us: we might even enjoy it, who knows. And rather than pushing your way out of the train door, try letting a fellow passenger go first: show some manners and decorum. You’ll feel better about yourself for a while, believe me.