Monday evening aside, I’m not on the trains this week, Clare being back into the regular routine of driving us both in. But one evening last week I shared my commute, as I occasionally do, with Jen, one of the sew make believe girls. She asked me whether getting a lift into Oxford was easier than the commute, and it sparked a discussion about train travel, delays, and the joys of other passengers.
Sharing a lift into Oxford doesn’t save me anything significant in the way of time. I leave the house 5 minutes later and get into the office 5 minutes earlier on a good run. We cannot leave as early as I’d like in the evening, as Clare’s line manager is less lenient – acknowledging that Clare is at her desk an hour before everyone else, but refusing to let her leave until 15 minutes before the office’s regular closing hour. So it actually loses me approx half an hour each evening in terms of getting home.
It does, however, save me enough money to make it worthwhile. Halving petrol costs comes in roughly the equivalent of halving my train/bus tickets. Which, when we’re talking £297 for a monthly pass, makes a real difference.
But where car sharing really pays dividends has to be with my sanity. Because I hate hate HATE my fellow train passengers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these are perfectly friendly, polite people under normal circumstances. But put them in the vicinity of a train and they seem to lose all sense of common decency. They push and shove and elbow and blank, put bags, coats and feet on seats to stop you from sitting beside them, and generally show no respect for their fellow man. They lose the great British art of queueing, not to mention any semblance of common sense – as demonstrated by a steadfast refusal to let other people OFF the train before attempting to get ON. In short, they revert to apes.
Thankfully, rather than think me a crazy woman with far too few real worries in her life, Jen agreed with me on the matter. And we discovered a bond we shared: each of us has a particular commuter to whom we’ve never spoken, with whom we’ve never really interacted, but for whom we feel a deep-rooted sense of resentment, even dislike.
These are women we actively dislike entirely because of how they act as train passengers. Jen’s anger was such that it had altered her entire routine – she now boards the train at the opposite end, just to avoid seeing the other woman. The woman I hate (and yes, I feel a true hatred towards her – even when I spot her plait swinging through the city centre in an unconnected situation I feel my eyes narrow in response) shows no outward respect for her fellow man. She has bony elbows and regularly deploys them, with no regard for whether they meet with a business suit or little old lady’s ribs. And she doesn’t understahnd the “bubble” concept. She knows where the train doors will open, and if someone – me, for example – happens to be standing in that exact spot, she will come and stand directly in front or beside me, literally brushing against me (on one occasion even on one of my toes) to ensure I don’t get on first. This is not a crowding issue – the platform, while busy, doesn’t get that horribly squashed – she just doesn’t seem to understand the concept of personal space, particularly where it might mean having to be second or third to board a train.
Funnily enough, I recall the incident that tipped my feelings for this woman from irritation to hatred as clearly as if it was yesterday. There was a queue of people trying to get off the train, behind a young mother who was struggling to lift down her pushchair. Had I been able to force my way past the bony elbow barrier I would have lifted the front for her, to help her off the train, but as it was, no-one helped at all. The wheel was wedged, unseen by the frustrated and embarrassed mother, and her efforts to wrench the buggy through the doors were proving fruitless as a result. For seconds that felt like hours I watched as the mother became more and more distressed… Finally with an audiblly irritated sigh, the object of my objection stepped forward…
And elbowed her way past the mother and buggy, and onto the train.
It was the mother’s mortification that sealed it for me. No-one has the right to make someone that visibly distressed without reason. I was so angry, I wanted to scream.
Naturally I didn’t: I sighed equally audibly, flashed the breeziest smile I could muster at the mother and lifted the front of her pushchair for her, halting the path of any potential followers with my far-from-bony (but equally effective) barrier of a bottom.
Some people would say it is a waste of energy to obsess over a woman who is entirely oblivious of my existence, let alone my feelings towards her. Others would say it was an invitation to bad karma, putting these pointless negative thoughts out there into the universe. Personally, I don’t care either way. It’s unlike me to feel quite so strongly about someone, yet I feel justified in my anger. I will continue to narrow my eyes at that swinging plait, whether she realises it or not!