I always said I’d never get a job where I had to commute. For the last 16 years I’ve been commuting up to two hours each way, so clearly that didn’t go quite to plan.
With that many years under my belt, I consider myself a veteran. I know the rules of commuting in England. And I think the English bit is quite important, as there is something terribly English (and sometimes a little Pogish) about it all. These are my top 3.
1 – Make no contact
Obviously the first rule is that you should never, ever talk to anyone. Ideally, you should not make eye contact either. The only time this rule changes is if there is an ‘incident’, (train not moving for the last 30 minutes, no arrival of the train, suspicion of the wrong leaves / snow/ rain/sun on the line) at which point all barriers come down in an attempt to understand what’s happening….because it’s almost a certainty that nobody official will tell you.*
*Note: if you do talk to someone who is a regular traveller on your train, you will then have to ‘good morning’ them until one of you retires.
2 – Shhh!
On an early morning train, if you’re with a friend, do not talk above a whisper. Trains are, for many commuters, and extention of bed. We aim to squeeze in an extra 30 minutes sleep, 40 if possible.. If you’re shouting like you’re in a night club you will get….um, a look or two (well,we are British). On the same note, for the love of God, if you need to listen to music before 7am, please listen to it alone. Get some decent ear phones or get ready for ‘the look’. From everyone.
3 – That’s my seat*
If you regularly travel on the same train that isn’t so crowded it’s like playing a game of sardines, there is a good chance that people will have their own seat. (You learn this if you are always on the same train with the same people). This is nothing official but for the sake of being a good English citizen, and to reduce the possibility of death stares, do not sit in someone else’s place. Please. Especially if it’s mine. It’s taken years to work out the optimal position to avoid being blown away/ rained on if someone opens a window, close to the heater in winter and close enough to the door to get out in a speedy fashion when I’ve fallen asleep and have woken up just as I’m about to miss my stop.
*The exception to this rule is if you are not a regular. You will still get a look, but a far more gentle one.
This is the best time of year for commuting as far as I am concerned. It’s just the right weather for what I call my witches cardigan. It is very long and floaty and has a great big collar that I pull over my head when I get on the train (it makes things feel less commutey and more cosy) and whenever I do this, people seem to instinctively understand my ‘rules’. It dawned on me yesterday that maybe I really looked a bit witch like, so I took a selfie to find out:
Hmmm. I think I’d probably keep my distance from that too! :o)