Oh how I love London. It's a dirty, smelly, thriving city full of inspiring and, more than likely, bonkers people. It's been home since the day I was born and I'm a full-on London nut. There's not a corner of London that I haven't explored, and I can reel off the lyrics to "Maybe It's because I'm A Londoner" without even being asked to.
But if there's one thing London thing I'm not completely sold on, it's commuters. Living south of the river, I've managed to live in blissful ignorance when it comes to the underground; my nearest tube stations are both over a half an hour's walk away. Every job I had as a teenager was either painfully local or had me working dismal hours, meaning I always managed to avoid the rush hour crush.
Until now that is.
I recently started at a new job and with it comes one major downfall: it's in East London. Now, I'm not saying that East London is an undesirable location; it's just so far from my little corner of South West London. The location means that, for the first time, I'm now confronted with possibly the most bonkers inhabitants of this great city: London Underground passengers.
I've recently come to the conclusion that the Northern Line will be the death of me. In the short space of four weeks, I've come across just about every type of awful commuter there is. There's the person who takes up the seat next to them by placing their awfully large bag on it and the person who just refuses to move down the carriage, no matter how much room is in front of them, and decide to just stand there in their smug glory. I like to imagine they have an internal siren that they imagine booms out "Beware peasants, I am the master of this carriage and I shall remain firmly in this spot right here and will make no more room for any more of you awful, dreadful peasants." Look at their faces and it won't be long until you are also imagining the poncey soundtrack to their life.
There's also the person who has an unnecessarily large backpack that they refuse to remove from their shoulders, thus squashing everyone who comes into immediate contact with it.
The most awful of all commuters is the Very Important Commuter, as I've labelled them. These people ignore the fact that another train will be along in exactly sixty seconds and instead decide that they absolutely must cram themselves onto the train that is already at capacity. It often makes me wonder if they were perhaps a sardine in a previous life.
One particular Very Important Commuter last week caused me no end of trouble. Despite the train being obviously packed - with one man pretty much bent in half in the corner of the carriage - this woman forced herself onto the train with serious force. She literally pushed me so hard in her bid to get onto the train that my head smacked off of the side of the carriage. When I asked for an apology, I was greeted with what I can only describe as an evil death stare. Her outfit said "high flying City business woman", her attitude and personality was more "ruthless cage fighter/trained killing machine."
That's not to say that all commuters are bad. I've also come across some wonderful people during my sweaty travels to Old Street. One morning last week, someone actually said thank you when I stopped reading my newspaper to give them a bit more room on the train.
Two weeks ago, I witnessed no fewer than eight people give up their seats for those less able to stand, which cheered my cynical heart no end. And then a beast of a man standing near the door, who looked at least double my height, boomed across the carriage at 9am that there was a heavily pregnant woman who required the use of a seat. His loud, demanding voice gave such a fright to the four teenage boys who had, until this point, spent the entire journey shouting and swearing that each of them dutifully jumped up to offer the poor woman a seat.
Things like that boost my confidence in my great city immensely and leave me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. It's just such a shame that politeness and consideration are considered such an abnormal thing for commuters.
I understand wholeheartedly that people are in a rush and that we live in a society where we've been conditioned to believe that the only important person is ourselves, but a little courtesy goes a very long way. I don't want to arrive home with a bruise on my face, and I don't want to get into work looking like a squashed banana. A simple 'excuse me' works better than barging past people. A 'thank you' brightens someone's day. It's a great thing to do, saying please, thank you, and excuse me. Give it a try sometime.
After all, manners cost nothing.