The Commute

July 19, 2016 8:11 pm



It begins. The pushing and shoving, hustling for a better vantage point; tutting and kvetching, giving the death-stare. Manners are fleeting, like patience.  No, it’s not another Next clearance sale, or a Black Friday event. It’s not the biblical Armageddon… It’s the early morning Huddersfield to Leeds line.

Tracks soiled with the contents of someone’s bowel movement, entice waddling pigeons to zealously peck at every decrepit morsel. Automated messages incessantly repeat on circuit; their apologies are as hollow as the cheap plastic cone they bellow out of. Round and around spews an endless supply of, sorry, until nausea sets in.

Gleaming with premature drizzle, it arrives. Carriages chunter to a holt, doors slither open. The poor few trying to escape the confines of their steel cage are met by a barrage of short-tempered, ill-mannered, disgruntled commuters – all of whom under the misguided belief they are the most important thing to grace the station platform that morning.

On board, paper shufflers take one seat for themselves and one for their broadsheet. The unwitting seat-hoggers – bags on seat next to them – deluded to believe it has more right to a seat than people standing. An aggravated woman asks someone to move their bag – they dawdle lazily – she sits on it proudly like a Mother Hen incubating eggs.

Vacuum-packed into a hot, sweaty tin can, trapped within a stale atmosphere of bad breath and vociferous body odour. Almost bent double, hunched over tiny glowing screens of pleasure. People need their fix before work, their daily info-dump of crass pigswill. It washes over them – one giant judging tsunami of mass media montages.

The vestibules are crammed. One passenger frantically flaps like a chicken wondering why it has wings. Some inhale and hold, and some exhale, onto the necks of the person two inches from them. The unfamiliar become at once familiar. When it’s time to alight you can give a CSI artist an epic depiction of every crack, pimple and blemish on their face.

A cacophony of sniffs, snoots, and phlegmy coughs, like a badly arranged percussion orchestra at a junior school, permeate from the middle of the metal carry-bins. Has there been a Kleenex drought that I’ve not been aware of? I guess some people prefer snot dribbling out of their nose-holes, hurriedly wiped away by the back of their hand…

For one passenger, make up is applied generously using the brick-layer technique – thick, garish dollops are trowelled on, until an orangey-burnish is achieved, much to the dismay of the three-piecer sat next to them. Meanwhile, heavy dance-beats blurting from a corner of the carriage are given a wince inducing wide-birth.

After the first stop the journey continues. A deathly silence fills the carriage – grey, miserable John Major’s, dot the brightly coloured seat designs. Anyone would think the train is heading to an internment camp to lay out the rest of their years in slave labour… maybe that’s what some of their jobs feel like, I know mine use to.

A squeaky-wheeled refreshments trolley pushed by a lethargic, over-sized woman amiably rummages down the aisle bumping into arms, legs, running into the occasional toe. Perhaps a sweaty overpriced sandwich or cardboard cup of dishwater-tea will get the morning up on its feet. After all, it is hump-day, signs of the weekend are fast approaching.

The post-Brexit blues are mellowing, but what will it take to lift people from their gloomy stagnations? Out of all the misery on this journey shines a glimmer of hope; the overtly loud voice of the train conductor announces that we are arriving at our final destination. Bags and coats are whipped up as a hyperbolic frenzy ensues.

Passengers ram the exits in the event they may never be able to leave the train now they are on it. As the train pulls up, the same rebellious behaviours showcase themselves – the pushing and shoving, tutting and kvetching. It doesn’t matter to me now though. The doors open, that first burst of fresh, cool air hits my nostrils – Ah, freedom… FREEDOM! The day has begun. It is a Monday, after all.

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