After having nearly survived an entire 7 years of commuting from Essex to London to work I have learned a lot. Mainly that unless you are built like a refrigerator with tits being a 5ft 4” woman trying to navigate the tube at rush hour is about as unhelpful as trying to recall your GCSE French while in a Brittany Fromagerie trying to navigate the procurement of an incredibly large cheese. Being gobby (my main virtue) is, unfortunately, not any help what so ever to the three hours a day I have to spend on London’s biggest achievement. What I have been able to do is make some observations that I hope will help others in the struggle
1) Perfect your resting bitch face
One of the small wins for anyone who has to commute is bagging a double seat all to yourself. For those who have a normal attitude towards personal contact, the lack of sunlight between yourself and the other person is uncomfortable but for people like me who have hugged their blood relations all of twice in their lifetime, it is absolute torture. I’m still trying to work out what goes through peoples minds when they decide to choose you, over the MILLIONS of other free seats, but I have come to one conclusion.
The better your resting bitch face – the less likely you are to have a seat buddy. I started out my year of commuting looking friendly and cheerful like I always do until I realised it encouraged literally every Tom, Dick, and Harry to assume it was ok to just sit next to me. It got to the point where I looked so appealing as someone to share the magical journey from Fenchurch St to Basildon with that people were actively choosing to sit next to me WHEN THERE WERE TWO SEATER SEATS FREE. Imagine. I quickly changed it up. If someone approaches me looking like they might fancy swapping breathing space I quickly look at them like they have urinated on my whole family and try to emphasize how pointy my elbows are. It works.
2) Know your route
If you are a commuter you are going to need to learn the London tube map so that you could recite it off of the back of your hand. If, like me, you erroneously thought it matched the Monopoly colours you have a long way to go my friend. You see, it’s all well and good knowing the route that you take every day, but there are SO MANY things that can disrupt your journey. TFL’s varied range of excuses encompasses leaves on the line, swans and just point blank the drivers couldn’t be arsed to turn up.
You cannot learn just ONE route to work. That is simply amateur. 8 – 10 is optimum number for commute survival.
3) Have a plan
Anyone who commutes knows that you need to plan at least your next three steps in advance. When the train pulls in lock your eyes on a seat and make it yours. If you have ever experienced those totally annoying people who share your commute every day and always seem to get a cosy seat on the packed Jubilee line, I’m telling you – it’s because they have a plan.
You may start off naively thinking that learning the train times is all you will need to get by but oh my there is A LOT more you can learn to plan ahead like a pro. Where do the doors stop? What carriage is the emptiest at your time? What side of the carriage is the emptiest? What carriage has the best heating? Where the stairs are at Kings Cross and Aldgate so you don’t get trapped in the complete ball ache of needing to walk along the whole platform while very rushy rushy people are trying to get on the tube you just exited is an important piece of knowledge. Every little helps.
4) Make peace with things you can’t change
The first couple of months of commuting were so stressful for me, mainly because I just couldn’t get my head around why people were so stupid and rude. There are still certain things that absolutely baffle me but I have a lot more of a healthier and happy life just muttering “cock” under my breath and letting it go. Things like:
Why do adults lose the ability to use an escalator correctly on the commute?
Why do people assume that pushing you will get the people in front of you to move?
Why do people feel it acceptable to stop dead while getting off of the tube to look at their phones?
Eating scotch eggs on the tube. Just why? I haven’t even experienced this once, it’s been about three times.
5) Pack smelly food
Ah yes, completely contradictory to my last point. But here’s the secret: as much as smelly food wankers annoy you, life is MUCH better if you ARE the smelly food wanker.
Packing something that absolutely stinks is a sure fire way to regain some well deserved personal space. If it’s messy as well, great success. People really do have a natural tendency to avoid people eating and if it is something gross they will be even more inclined to go and sit next to the girl from Leigh-On-Sea who cannot handle her wine and has told everyone 40 times she doesn’t usually go out in London but she had annual leave.
My weapon of choice is a bag of Marmite crisps. I actually once cleared a whole carriage on the Hammersmith & City line to Barking.
6) Listen to loud music
This is a great one, because if your music is really loud and annoying, what are people actually going to do? I’ve had a number of people encroach on my personal space so badly I can smell what they had for breakfast tell me to turn my music down only to cheerfully tell them to “piss off you absolute jobsworth”. If you are close enough to hear my music that’s your problem, not mine.
Once a man wrongfully assumed the loud drum and bass beats were mine (I wouldn’t listen to drum and bass if you fucking paid me) and said to me “excuse me this is the quiet zone” to which I replied, “shut up then”. With so many things in life to be worried about (Trump, black holes, the weird noise your washing machine keeps making), I really don’t think a little bit of music on the train is that offensive.
7) Learn the secrets
At Leicester Square station, there is an exit off of the platform that isn’t marked ‘Way Out’ but that can be effectively used to get out. Rebellious huh? The great thing about little tricks like this is that the thousands of tourists that descend on London every day are conditioned to just follow the instructions they read. Only a select few rebellious Londoners know about secret ways out and ways to access other platforms that are not advertised.
TFL don’t exactly want you to use these, but again I refer to my earlier sentiment: what will they actually do? I’ve read about people going to prison for some ridiculous things, but I’ve never seen an article with the headline “MAN SENTENCED TO 40 YEARS IN BELMARSH FOR USING AN ENTRANCE TO EXIT THE TUBE STATION”. As long as you aren’t doing anything dangerous like cutting across the track or trying to jump on the roof of a moving Met line train to Watford when there are no seats, trust me, you are going to be fine.
8) Avoid the Central line
I consider myself a professional swearer. I can’t speak another language, I’ve yet to learn to drive and I can’t iron, but my oh my can I string together some naughty language like a pro. But even a talented swear artist like me has absolutely no words for the Central line. Last time I tried to use it I nearly got pushed on to the actual tracks at Mile End and luckily enough a man put his arm out and saved me. Children were screaming. Buildings were falling down. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse I’m assuming would have been there if they could get permission to pass the red signal. It wasn’t pretty. Just don’t do it, ever.
9) Find out if you can walk
One of the longest running, funniest jokes for people that live in London or work there is the fact that people get the tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden. LOL, wow ok then lazy. Seriously it is actually QUICKER to walk. I don’t blame tourists for this error. It isn’t exactly pointed out anywhere. No one tells you things like how close Aldgate is to Fenchurch Street. This is really important shit and we are just left to figure it out like those experiments where you see them locking an Octopus in a box to see if it figures out its escape.
The other day my tube terminated at Moorgate and I couldn’t be bothered with getting on the Hammersmith & City line and spending the 20 minutes to Barking with a beefy armpit in my face. So I walked, and I found out it wasn’t that far at ALL. I urge you to do this as much as possible. If you can find your way around London walking you’ll never be lost.
10) Learn “The Stare”
“The Stare” is something completely different to resting bitch face. Do not get the two confused. I have news for you; you are going to need to learn a lot of faces to survive the commute. One of the great things is that once you learn it you can apply it to other situations in life. Basically, all you need to do is fix someone with a steely gaze when they ask you something.
“Can you move over a bit please?”
This is where you use the stare. Do not talk. Do not move. If you are skillful enough do not blink. Just give them a stern, steadfast stare until they stop bothering you and asking you to do shit you don’t want to do. This works in all areas of life.
11) Take the seat
I’m a very proud feminist. I have a vagina, and I’d quite like to stay in charge of it myself, thank you very much. When a kind man offers me a seat on the tube or the train it really throws me into a moral dilemma. I mean, WHY is he offering me a seat? Is it because he thinks I’m pretty, which is objectifying me, and sexist? (it probably isn’t this, to be honest). Is it because he see’s women as the weaker sex and thinks I need the seat more than him, which is sexist? Is it because I ate bread for lunch and look four months pregnant? (not sexist, just a bit rude). Either way, while I am running this internal monologue in my head, my bum magnetically finds the seat. I don’t even have time to think about it.
Listen, women, no matter how much of a feminist you are – take the seat. But also prepared to offer your seat to a man if he looks in need. I have twice given my seat to a man this year, one on crutches and one who just looked knackered. They’ll either love it or be offended. I like those odds.
12) Pack light
Packing light for a hard-going commute is something you would think is fairly obvious. Don’t take your Tuba to work with you, try not to need a suitcase for your lunch and wear as much clothing as possible save carrying it. The issue is that until you start working in London you don’t realise how much STUFF you need to live a human adult life. Lunch is the worst offender. Unless you want to go and hand over your life savings in Pret over the course of six months you have to take your own lunch. But why are there just SO MANY bits of it? Seriously, it’s so hard to pack the bare minimum when it comes to food. I’ve taken to just taking mugshots now. My skins broken out, I’m tired all of the time and I’m fairly sure I’m anemic but GUESS WHO DOESN’T HAVE TO BATTLE THE PICCADILLY LINE WITH A LUNCH BOX THAT WON’T FIT IN HER BAG EVERY DAY. Winning.
Love to know your thoughts guys?