Stuff

The Endless Hell of Commuting in Britain

I'm tired of eating my crisps next to someone's bare feet. I won't stand for it.
September 15, 2016, 12:00am

Bunch of commuters fuckin' standing around or whatever. Photo by Leifern via Wikipedia.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

There are few things I like more than boarding a train to go up or down the country. Getting a nice window seat, maybe playing a bit of Clock Patience on the squeaky, fold-out table, watching the pastoral landscape of this beautiful country roll past. Yet, when I'm stood on the station platform, I'm filled with such a sense of overwhelming dread that most days I just want to stick my head in a panini press and squash-burn my fucking face until I die of pain.

What's up with that?

You would have thought that in an age where our technology is increasing in power exponentially, to the point where we can transplant faces and catch Pokémon at funerals, that this very normal, very necessary part of our lives would be at least partially fixed by now – or made a little easier. Somehow, though, it just seems to get more and more painful and irritating and soul-destroying. Why is everything so shit, and why is everyone such a cunt?

I don't know, and I don't pretend to. But in the hope that reading this will allow you a little catharsis and stop you from pouring a boiling hot Pumpkin Café latte all over your extremities in a fit of total existential anguish, here's a guide to the endless hell of commuting in Britain.

Couple of layabout pieces of shit. (Photo: Wikimedia user My_Other_Account)

THE TRAINS ARE FUCKING CRAP, BUT THEY HAVE SOME USES

If, like me, you're a long-suffering customer of Southern Rail, AKA the world's worst business, AKA I would rather be tied to a horse and dragged to work over roads paved with hot coals, then you'll know that their train schedule is about as useful as Pete Doherty's organ donor card. But this can be used to your advantage. If your employer knows about your locomotive plight, you can trick them into thinking the trains are fucked – because they'll just assume they are – allowing you a smug little lie-in while all the other wage slaves fart on each and jostle their wet umbrellas against each other's legs. You're the man now.

SCUM ALL OVER THE PLACE

Much like theme parks, shopping centres, normal parks, offices, festivals, schools, markets, restaurants, pavements, gyms and most other places, your commute is full of people you innately want to kill. Mostly they've not done anything wrong; they could just be sat there reading the paper, but in your head you're willing them to look up at you and say, "What you looking at, mate?" just so you have a reason to plunge your freshly-showered fist right into their fucking face. You want to scream at everyone getting on the train. Why are they all so selfish? This train is busy, dickhead – just wait for the next one.

Sadly, there's no real "life hack" to cut down the population significantly enough to make overcrowding obsolete. In Japan, people are crammed into trains all day, all the time, but it's kind of OK because they do it in silence and they're by and large pretty lithe, so it's not so bad. Here, we have a perennially squawking fuck-wit asking everyone to "move down, please" in their best annoying teacher voice.

Everyone is doing their best to upset everyone else. It's beautiful, in a way.

Some nail clippers. (Photo: Iain, via)

GROOMING

If you're using my patented Southern Rail method, as seen above, you've got no real excuse not to be ready to go when you leave the house; you've already given yourself an extra half an hour to shave your face or put your slap on. But if your life is truly a fucking shambles it's understandable that you might need to use the train journey to whack some dust on your chops, or comb your hair, or roll a day's worth of cigarettes in one go.

Other things, however, are not permissible. For instance: clipping your toe nails – something you'd think would be exclusive to those who've been lobotomised, but there you are, on a train from Banstead to London Victoria, watching someone go at their little piggies with nail clippers. It is more than socially acceptable to shout at someone for doing this.

IMPOTENCE

Perhaps the worst aspect of commuting is the total powerlessness you feel in the face of its many problems. Your bus is late, your train is cancelled – what are you gonna do about it, mate? Oh, fuck all? Yeah, that's what I thought. You have no choice but to sit there – or stand there – shut up, suck it up, be quiet, live with it and allow it to just wash over you. You might want to scream at someone, but unfortunately all the people who make the decisions aren't at ground level, so your ire will be directed at train staff who, frankly, don't deserve it, or care.

We live in the net age, guys. Just go on 4chan and get someone to find the home address of whoever calls the shots and order 47 curries to it every other day until they admit defeat and stop charging more and more for an increasingly terrible service.

THAT TINNY SOUND FROM PHONES AND EARPHONES

This is a tricky one, because there's no way of knowing whether or not the person knows their shit is too loud, and no way of knowing how they'd react to being asked to turn it down. I don't want to get all Very British Problems about this (even though that's exactly what this entire thing is), but our widespread proclivity for silent brewing is the cause of no one speaking up. It's why our last uprising was with the Jacobites. We've been under the thumb of Bake Off and Marmite since then. People get really upset when you talk to them about their loud music, because no one likes admitting they're wrong, and being caught out in public triggers a kind of fight or flight mode in the brain. Use your guile to determine whether it's worth it to ask, or whether you should just leave it.

Some terrifying children. (Photo: British School the Hague, via)

SCHOOL KIDS PLAYING MUSIC OUT LOUD ON THEIR PHONES

Unless you're either up for beating up some kids or having your entire appearance and life called into question loudly on the top deck of a bus, it's best to just let these absolute fuckers get on with it. You might even pick up a cool tune or two. Maybe you can surreptitiously Shazam whatever godless banshee scream they're reverberating off the bus windows to make sure everyone can hear it.

I don't know about you, but teenagers scare the shit out of me. Either I'm scared that I'll have to slap one of them up and get caught on CCTV doing it and lose my job, or scared of the sixth former blokes who are about a foot taller than me and go to the gym five days a week for weight training. And I don't mean a flowery Virgin Active gym, either; I mean a gym where you can either run on the spot, punch a bag or lift up some rusty metal. Horrible.

APPARENTLY INFANTS NEED TO SIT DOWN

Yeah, I don't get this one either. These little bastards have the world's freshest legs, yet when some exhausted-looking parent tumbles onto the tube train with 14 kids it's paramount that they all have a seat. They haven't even paid for it! Why is everyone trying to make me stand up all the time? So what if I sit on my arse for eight solid hours a day, the only time I rise to either take a shit or eat food from a shop that's a minute-and-a-half away? I want to read my book! God, it makes me so angry! Get up! Get up, you tiny cunt! I want to sit down! Me! Me! Me!

@joe_bish