The Art Of Commuting: Things To Do On A Moving Train

I know what some of you are thinking from that title…clean out your mind and focus!

In my commuting youth (the 7:42 from Andover to Salisbury) I was in awe of the ability of my schoolmates to apply mascara on a fast moving and juddery vehicle, and to even draw eyeliner onto the inside of their eyes without maiming their sight. I do not imagine there would be the same level of success in my attempt and so I get up promptly, merely to retain my sight. I have seen the occasional person – all women thus far – expertly applying the same. For me, getting into work 5 minutes early is infinitely preferable.

The inevitable slide into technology means that the laptop, tablet and phone feature prominently in the ‘things to do’ list. It opens up a whole world – reading, writing, TV watching, working, games, music; the one object that does so much is a definite commuter consideration. I have managed to go to bed at a reasonable hour and still catch up on a TV series before arriving in the office thanks to efficient downloading overnight. However, there’s nothing wrong with the good old fashioned book, or indeed a free paper as I’m too cheap/poor to buy one. My newspaper preferences are mainly graded by how much print you end up with on your hands, so while the Metro is an enjoyable morning read, with my favourite parts being the good deeds section and crush messages (a girl can dream..), the Evening Standard is much less of a pleasurable read as my hands are completely stained by the end of my perusal. An advantage of reading over watching is that you can tune in and out of the material to listen…

…I guess this could be classed as eavesdropping, although I’m not listening in order to share information with anyone. If I want to write more, I think it’s important to listen more; as such I try not to spend both journeys of the day with earphones in. I’ve also endeavoured to walk to and fro without any form of technology in my hands/ears to be more aware of what’s around me, and below are a couple of my favourite spots this week! Sometimes though, it’s really hard not to laugh out loud. On my first evening trip someone mentioned their child’s teacher, referring to her as ‘Mrs Badcrumble’, an Eddie Izzard reference that meant I had to bite my lip and try not to giggle, as I wasn’t actually part of the conversation.

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Contrary to popular opinion that no-one speaks, I have seen conversation amongst commuters, and there is therefore something to listen to (though not always!). Being a newbie I do not know whether this is the result of pre-established friendship or friendship established because of being on the train together; as they can mention names with no contextual add-on, I think it’s fair to assume this is an on-going scenario in some form or another. I have encountered people who will chat to me, and those who I see every morning at the train door, yet seem to wish to deny my existence and steadfastly refuse to meet my eye and smile while waiting. I try and smile at anyone whose eye I accidentally catch; I’d rather someone smiled at me.

All of this said, on particularly grumpy days (those when I have barely made the train), sticking in my earphones and choosing something uplifting or funny to listen to on my iPod mean I can arrive home with a different mood and attitude to the one I got on the train with. This leads me to the difficult situation of listening to a catchy song… I find generally that I can acquire words of songs in my head with relative ease and therefore when I listen ordinarily, I sing. Now this is something that I feel would not only assault the ears of my fellow passengers, but also perhaps mean that I had a wide berth on future journeys…on second thoughts, this could work in my favour… Anyway, I have had to, on quiet journeys with no one sat beside me and while facing the window, content myself with mouthing the words along with the song and hope no-one’s looking… I’m as yet undecided on dancing along which I’m currently trying not to do as I write.

And thus we reach the pinnacle of the options, in my personal opinion. In my initial week of commuting, somewhat surprisingly, I had only one nap on the train. I nursed a small fear of sleeping too long and missing my stop rendering naps on the way home a near impossibility, even as I fought valiantly to stay awake on my first day (just managed it). I also came down with a cold, and I’m acutely aware that that is one of the instances in which I snore…the other time this occurs is when I’ve had alcohol which may also render Friday evening trains as nap-free zones. Naps are one of my favourite past-times and so since my recovery to full health I have indulged myself with nap time and enjoyed several sleeps. The danger of missing my stop seems somewhat eradicated by the booming ‘STATION NAME, this is STATION NAME’ that resounds loudly at increasingly regular intervals as we approach my home stop. It doesn’t seem appropriate to bring a blanket/pillow though, which means jackets and pashminas are definitely handy, although I remain vaguely hopeful that that’s maybe because it’s not yet winter? No?

One of the joys of train travel is the many options of things to do, as long as you can do them while remaining fairly immobile (no inappropriate suggestions again please!). I realised my new-found love of this when last Saturday I got in the car to drive to meet a friend and was mildly perturbed that I couldn’t read a book or watch something on iplayer for the following hour. I could however, sing along at the top of my voice to whatever I wanted.

Things not to do on the train:
– eat crisps.
– sing along to music.
– people watch – people know you’re watching them, and frankly it’s a bit weird to sit and stare.
– laugh loudly whilst watching something on iplayer…it makes you look a little bit (more) crazy.

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