I'm now what I'd call a "commuter" after six months or so travelling by the much-maligned First Capital Connect from my home in London to work in Kent. Surprisingly, I haven't gone mad. I haven't hit anybody with an umbrella in rage that they've almost sat on me in an attempt to get the most space on the pair of seats I find myself sharing with the twit, nor have I erupted in a furious scream when I've found that my train has been delayed due to 500 yards of permanent way being stolen at Liphook.
What I have found myself doing, however, is categorising the type of commuter I've seen during this time. It's undeniably survival of the fittest when a train pulls up with three empty seats on it, but it's quite amusing seeing the personalities some people develop when travelling to work.
The Chancer is a bit of a hate figure. While people line up politely around a door waiting for other passengers to get off, he will try and sneak round the side of the congregated people and slide onto the train through the smallest of spaces. Riled by polite commuters, he has no qualms with being stared at ruefully while sat in his chair while other, more polite commuters stand. The Chancer can also be found sitting in First Class with a Standard Class ticket, and will inevitably use the excuse, "I had no idea! It's not very clearly labelled" when confronted by the conductor.
Often in his late 40s or 50s, Mr Disgruntled is a veteran of the commute game. He's been getting trains to work since Network South East ran the show, and it tells on his face. He sits wistfully, huffing at anybody who dares encroach his personal space. Often uses a broadsheet newspaper to get some elbow room, and does not think to fold the paper. Often owns an Annual Gold Card, and targets the same seat on every journey.
"The Perennial Stander"
This chap tends to be a glass half empty person. Always assumes he will have to stand up for the duration of the journey, and accepts this ruefully. Standing forms such a part of his routine that, even if seats become available during the journey, he tends to think, "There's no point sitting down, I'm getting off in two stops..."
"The Free Spirit"
Lovely and polite to everyone, the Free Spirit isn't a regular commuter and finds the experience of getting the train to work refreshing. Stands in all the wrong places, is far too polite, and often lets everyone on the train before her - thereby running the risk of not getting on it at all.
Often you will spot someone making a journey and think, "Couldn't it wait?" Whether it's a woman travelling with a triple buggy or a man who decides four suitcases, his golf clubs and skiing equipment absolutely must be in London before 8.30am, this person tends to risk the wrath of Mr Disgruntled. Avoided as much as possible by other commuters due to complications boarding the train, and space issues.
"The Artful Dodger"
A streetwise commuter, the Artful Dodger knows exactly which set of doors to board and the carriage to travel in to ensure he gets off the train right by the exit. Will often use reference points (tunnels, signal poles, rubbish by the track) as a signal that the next station is approaching, and get up earlier than everyone else so he has the honour of pressing the "Open" button on the door.
"The Wrong Sandwich"
Riled by his commuting bretheren, the Wrong Sandwich always boards with his favourite hot pasty or sandwich which thereby stinks out the carriage for half the journey. Commuters are begging for air by the time the train arrives at its destination, and often find themselves asking, "Who needs a cheese and onion pasty at 6am? Have you not had your Shreddies?!"
These are just a few of the lovely people you will be sharing your next journey with. See how many of them you can spot next time you travel - it's like a strange internet-based version of Guess Who!
Until next time.Suggest a correction