Did commuting steal their souls?
Commuting is undoubtedly one of the least pleasant aspects of my day to day life. This is largely thanks to Southeastern trains, but it would be wrong of me not to give credit to the huge number of commuters I share my journey with.
At my local train station, on the train itself and at London Victoria, I pass by hundreds, maybe thousands of commuters every day. With such a large cross-section of human beings, you might expect to see the best and worst of humanity revealed.
If that is the case, then we are all doomed. Because in actual fact what I see every day are normal people – people like you and me – deserting their manners, sensitivity and empathy to become unpleasant, rude and bolshy human beings.
Today, I was waiting alongside my train with hundreds of other tetchy, fidgety passengers for the doors to open. As they did, there was a huge surge forward as commuters fought for their seat. In doing so, they did not allow a poor young girl with a suitcase to disembark and left her fighting to keep her balance. I moved out of the way like everybody should have, and yet she felt compelled to thank me as no one else had afforded her this common courtesy.
But the most annoying part was that there was no need to push and fight for a seat; there were plenty of seats left and they didn’t fill up for a while.
I’ve seen this same manoeuvre time and time again – undiscriminating desertion of basic politeness. If you’re old, frail, over encumbered; it doesn’t matter! You will never be worth losing a seat for.
But this is just the start. On a daily basis, I am pushed past at the station, ‘raced’ onto the train, wrestled for armrest space once seated. I struggle to ignore the extremely loud music seeping through leaky headphones, excessively loud ringtones and ‘private’ conversations at unnecessary volumes. If I found out that my manager spoke about me publicly the way these people do about their staff, I’d be appalled.
Additionally, I am regularly frustrated by those who feel they have more right to a seat because they have a season ticket. If anything, we have less right, as we are afforded discounts for buying tickets in advance. I commonly hear complaints from fellow passengers that children shouldn’t be allowed on trains between certain hours, as if mothers have less human rights than we do. (Please note, I’m not a mother, and screaming children rile me as much as the next person.)
I see people who are clearly injured, elderly or pregnant, forced to stand as everyone looks away instead of offering their seat. I’m happy to say that my boyfriend is one of the few people I’ve ever seen offer to relinquish his seat to someone who needed it more than he did. And when he did, the woman was disproportionately grateful for his kindness.
This is just a selection of the behaviour I witness daily, and in a way, I can see how the ‘rat-race’ can take its toll on people and really affect them. But I’m a commuter too, and seeing people act this way is having a negative effect on me! I need to know that people are still basically good, because if the London transport system is a microcosm of the country as a whole; I may have to consider emigration.
(I’d just like to add, I still have some hope. I’ve been to some lovely places in the country and met plenty of well mannered, pleasant people. It’s only a shame that I’m not exposed to it more often to provide me with some kind of balance.)
Filed under: General | 4 Comments
Tags: commuting, microcosm, rat race, southeastern trains