Whilst most of you are returning to work after your Bank Holiday weekend, I’m sat on my settee writing. Whilst I don’t mean to be smug I can’t help but allow myself a little smirk when I think about everyone who is having to endure public transport when the furthest I have to travel is to the bathroom and back.
For the past ten years I’ve been a daily traveller on the Tyne & Wear Metro. I’ve come to get used to trains withdrawn from service, services suspended because it is too sunny, services suspended because it is too rainy, services suspended due to too much snow. Basically the Metro does not work if there is any weather. The only thing it copes with is grey and dull. I’ve come to expect it and possibly even accept it but what I can’t accept are my fellow travellers.
As with pub etiquette, there are unwritten rules that you should have been taught at a young age. If you happened to have been raised by a herd of wildebeest (and this is the only possibly explanation for some of this behaviour) please read below.
If you recognise yourself in one of these categories, please change before someone puts you onto the tracks in the desperate hope that a train will turn up on time.
I’ve aimed them specifically at passenger of the Tyne & Wear Metro but they are transferable to other light rail systems across the country.
It’s not difficult to get a Metro. Buy your ticket or pass, walk along the platform until you find a free spot, wait until the train turns up, get on. You’d think that even the simplest of souls could follow those few simple steps but some are determined to flout the rules.
The Wanderer is one of these types. Unable to pick a spot and stand in it, which let’s be honest is a fairly basic skill, they decide to go for a ramble up and down the platform making everyone nervous. What are they up to? What is going through their minds? We all eye them suspiciously with hate filled eyes wondering if they are going to jump or as we all fear, push one of us under the train.
What is in the back of everybody’s mind is that he is not just a Wanderer. He is not a jumper or a pusher. He is looking for his next victim. He is a Talker.
I’ve heard it said that Londoner’s aren’t friendly because nobody talks on The Tube. Why on God’s Green Earth would you want to speak to strangers on public transport?
It’s not being unfriendly, it’s recognising that 99% of people on public transport are on their way to or from work, are knackered beyond the powers of speech and engaging in chit chat with a random nobody would probably result in tears.
You get to spot them, they are usually of a certain age, people who were brought up thinking that shitting in the same bath in front of the fire is perfectly normal. Totally unaccustomed to somebody’s right to privacy and a little bit peace and quiet at seven in the morning.
If you are a regular traveller you are more than likely to see the same people every day. They aren’t your friends, they don’t want you to unburden your life history onto them. The absolute maximum you can say to them is ‘Morning’ and then move on a safe distance. The only exception is when the Metros are delayed or suspended and you pass on information that may be of use. The next day you pretend this conversation never happened and you return to saying ‘Morning’.
The only genuine conversations I have had with a stranger was when a Talker tried to engage me and a fellow regular traveller rescued me, pretending she was a friend. I will be eternally grateful but she admitted that she had been trapped by the Talker before and couldn’t bear to see anybody else suffer the same fate.
If you see one approaching, put in your earphones, start reading your phone, kindle, paper or whatever you have to hand. This will not deter them but if you stare blankly ahead they will eventually go away.
The Space Invader
Every regular commuter has their ‘spot’ on the platform but if you arrive at your spot and is occupied the rules are simple. Two arms’ length. You should be able to work it out in your head but if you can’t, I’d much rather you put your arm out and shuffled along the required distance. Far less weird than being close enough to pick my pocket.
If you approach the station and the train is already there, you are late. I can 100% guarantee that the train will not be early, it’s possibly an earlier scheduled train that is incredibly late but it is more than likely your tardiness.
You have a number of options in this situation. The advised one is to shrug your shoulders, accept that you’ve missed it and slow down to a trudge so there can be no indication that you are trying to catch it.
The other acceptable option is to run full pelt to attempt to catch it. It provides other passengers with a bit of welcome entertainment, especially if you miss out by seconds.
If you choose this option there are rules. If the doors are closing don’t try and wedge them open either for yourself or a lazier companion. It can break the doors on what is already a flaky fleet of trains and it will incur the wrath of the driver. Nobody wants to hear an early morning rant from someone who not only got up earlier than you but is already working and hating his job.
You can only perform the sprint if you have a pass or a ticket. To sprint for the train and then take a detour to the ticket machine hoping the driver will wait will see you banned from the Metro system.
Similarly if you are at the ticket machine when the train pulls in, you have similar options to the sprint. Frantically throw your coins in and hope you make it or cheerfully wave the driver off.
If the driver is good enough to wait for you, do not consider for a moment, do not even think for a second that it is acceptable to grab a free paper before you get on. If you do this I will personally pick up a pensioner and batter you with it.
The Queue Jumper
You may think there are no queues on the Metro platform but as with pubs, there is a virtual queue and everybody knows their place in it. It works perfectly well until somebody tries to abuse it. There are many tactics employed by the queue jumper. An advanced Space Invader might stand directly in front of you rather than beside you so they also become a Queue Jumper. The latecomer has been known to employ the bizarre tactic of running along the platform with their finger on the door button as if this gives them some sort of queue jumping rights. It does not.
Queue jumpers are dealt with quickly and efficiently by other passengers and take this as a threat if you like but I have elbows that Diego Costa would be proud of.