As someone who didn’t learn to drive until I was 31, public transport is no great shock to my system. I’ve been using it a lot lately. I don’t have to put up with bullshit traffic and I can read my book or mess around with my phone in relative peace. The other guilty pleasure of public transport is the people watching. Nose pickers, people who are elbow-deep in their own ears, men who are constantly rearranging their junk- you name it, I’ve seen it. It amazes me what people will do on public transport. They are crammed in with a bunch of other people yet they behave as if they are invisible.
The Sleeper is on board almost every train in the early hours. Often, there are several in each train carriage. They might wrap a scarf or generous hood around their faces before they set an alarm on their phones and doze off. I should be pleased that they’ve figured out a way to maximise their sleep but honestly, they freak me out a little. Sometimes, they slowly drift over to one side and before you know it, a total random is snoring gently into your ear. I never know what to do. I don’t want to rudely awaken anybody but if someone I don’t know is drooling on my shoulder, what choice do I have? The other reason they freak me out is that I can’t always tell if they’re breathing. I have this mental image of a newspaper article about how a dead man rode a Sydney train for days because commuters thought he was sleeping. So now I find myself carefully watching the chests of sleeping strangers to make sure they’re rising and falling. It’s kind of stressful, actually!
The Long Phone Call.
Last week, I was on the train when a friend called my mobile to discuss a personal issue. I spoke in coded terms and she, understanding that I was on a peak hour train, kept it short.
Other people, however, are not so considerate. Having spent half hour bus trips listening to someone’s detailed explanation of their marital problems made me hyper-aware of not inflicting that on strangers. No one wants to spend their commute listening to the gory (or boring) details of someone else’s life. It can be annoying and it’s often uncomfortable. Some of us just want to chill out on the ride to or from work. There is social media, emails to catch up on, books to read, windows to gaze out of while lost in thought and sleeping people to monitor for signs of life. All of these things can be unpleasantly compromised by an inconsiderate chatterer who insists on airing their intimacies in confined spaces that we can’t readily escape from.
The Small Talker.
Some people are perfectly happy to have a little chat on the bus or train. Some people are less so. You can usually figure it out by subtle clues offered by their body language. Are they wearing headphones? They don’t want to talk to you. Is their entire face swathed in a scarf or hidden by a hood as they sleep? They don’t want to talk to you. Are they gazing determinedly at their phone, out the window, into a book, a newspaper or at a laptop? They don’t want to talk to you. Have the answered all of your attempts at conversation with either non-verbal gestures or monosyllabic responses? Sorry, they do not want to talk to you. That’s okay. Let people have their space and quiet time!
The Music Fan.
Who doesn’t love music? And how great is public transport for chilling out with your favourite tunes on? Pop your headphones in and away you go! Note that first little instruction, there. pop your damn headphones in. You might think Nickelback is the most phenomenal band that ever graced a recording studio. We could have a lively debate about whether or not that noise even qualifies as music, but I’m happy to live and let live. That said, have the same consideration.
Do not play your music out loud, using your phone speaker or any other portable speaker thingy. You are in a confined space with people who are trying to sleep or have a phone conversation, damn it! Blasting people with music, even if you think it’s the best and they will love it, is the act of an arrogant douchecanoe who hasn’t even got the most basic sense of consideration for others.
Widely documented, this is the phenomenon of the bloke who sits with his legs so far apart that he takes up more than one seat. The Manspreader is the tabby cat of public transport animals. They are everywhere. They aren’t just spreading onto the only vacant seat in the train carriage, they are also plopping themselves down in the seat next to you and gradually squishing their leg into yours in a silent battle for domination of the space. I know men might feel more comfortable with a little more space between their legs to accommodate certain things, but there is no way they need to do the splits on public transport to keep their bits in relative comfort.
Apparently, the female equivalent is the woman who piles shopping on the seat next to her to prevent anyone else using it. From my own experience, I’ve never had this issue. Women have happily shifted bags and let me sit down. Maybe it’s just a tactic to put off potential manspreaders?
Sometimes, I bring breakfast on to the train with me. What qualifies as train breakfast is coffee in a thermal travel mug. No mess, no rubbish, no obnoxious noises or smells that will bother anyone else.
Have you ever been in the same carriage as someone who has decided that a peak hour train ride is an excellent time for a curried egg sandwich? Ever sat near someone who is crunching their way through a pile of chips or crackers? Misophonia is a real thing. It sends sufferers into fits of anxiety, rage, terror and panic when they hear someone chewing. Even if you aren’t living with misophonia, listening to someone munch or being forced to smell food is not cool. It’s an attack on the senses that we could all do without, whether it’s the start of our day or the end!
The Infectious Commuter.
Unless public transport is the only option you have to get to medical assistance, I beg you, stay home. I have been sneezed on, coughed on, spluttered over and worse. I have never enjoyed it. It has never lead to anything pleasant. No one wants what you have. Keep it to yourself.
#IBOT @ Capturing Life.