I commute to work every day, making me officially just one of the approximately 2.95 million people a day who use the Tube. No wonder the entire London Underground is, at all times, covered in a thick layer of skank.
But the cleanliness of the carriages is not what I'm getting at here. Being on the Tube with basically everyone else in Greater London, twice within a 12 hour time period, sucks for EVERYONE involved.
And although you might think that your journey is the most crowded, that your line is the slowest, that your inter-change from Bakerloo to Hammersmith & City at Paddington is the most laborious of all... you are wrong. There is always someone else who had a worse start to their day and there is almost certainly a person that is more late for work than you are.
Why then, if we're all in the same boat (or, err, train) do individuals doing the early morning shuffle and the late afternoon rush, get so goddamned antsy?
You know the ones I'm talking about... from the persistent pushers all the way down to the last-minute-jumpers (that's on to the train and not under it FYI), it seems that the entire London Tube system is swarming with a vile infestation of not rats, but T.W.A.T.S.
Total Wankers At Tube Stations.
Now, I'm a fairly positive person. I understand that my journey in to work (where I will inevitably be shoved into an unwashed armpit at Harrow on The Hill and remain there until Baker Street) will be shit. So I try not to let it ruin my day.
The amount of scowling you see on the tube is criminal. People! Think of your poor skin, already clogged up with the grime of millions of dirty individuals and their germs, only to be cruelly furrowed for two hours a day, resulting in serious stress wrinkles. That's right, there are people who hate their journey SO MUCH, that they'd ruin their face for it. Fools.
So in a bid to alleviate some of the stresses of the daily grind, I have identified the top five most offensive kinds of T.W.A.T.S and have thought of some handy tips to eliminate their negativity from your lives and ultimately, to save your (lovely) faces from permanent damage.
1) Last Minute Jumpers: These springy sadists are the kinds who saunter around the back of the crowd at a busy platform looking casual. Although they may appear to be members of the lesser-known 'pleasant traveler' species, they are not.
That laid-back swagger is in place to throw you off, because the second they hear the "beepbeepbeepbeepbeep" which signals the doors closing, they come at you full pelt and throw themselves into the carriage, with no concept of your safety or theirs.
The idea is to hit the rest of the commuters with such force that the crowd is pushed another couple of inches further back, therefore allowing them (but inevitably not their rucksack - cue door closing, opening, closing, opening, closing) room to just about squeeze in.
What should you do? Firstly, stay alert when you hear the beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. If you see a Last Minute Jumper coming, prepare yourself. The only defense is attack, so bend that arm and expose a menacing elbow to jab them out before the doors close.
Alternatively, do some split second team building and have your carriage companions link arms and heave forward so that not even a small iota of space remains for the Last Minute Jumper to jump in to. Hold this pose until the doors are firmly shut. And if they do re-open, don't let your guard down. Pesky LMJs will try twice, even thrice, if they are determined to get on that train.
2) Tut-Tut-Tutters: These territory terrorists are the kinds who cannot help but emit multiple tuts throughout the journey. I'm not talking about an isolated kiss of the teeth (that's a Londoner's right, if someone steps on your toe or knees you in the groin, feel free to do a tut). I'm talking about a continuous stream of "tsk" sounds, with added spray of spittle, coming from somewhere behind you and to your left. They also tend to be the same people who won't move down the carriage, preferring to desperately wedge themselves in the part of the train closest to the door.
What should you do? If you are on a particularly congested carriage, the kind where there isn't even room to breathe in, for fear of bumping uglies with the guy in front of you, simply smile broadly, turn your head, and ask them where exactly they DO want you to stand to make them a little bit more comfortable? Suggest (politely) that if it would make their journey a more pleasant experience, you could always just climb up the wall and stick yourself to the ceiling with the Loctite you keep in your handbag. Super glue. Guaranteed to shut a Tut-Tut-Tutter up everytime.
3) Rule Breakers: The sort of people that deliberately switch off their ears when the platform attendants command, in those booming voices they reserve solely for this very important job: "Please allow passengers off the carriage first, before boarding."
In fact, you can assure that by the time you've heard "Please" there will be at least one naughty Rule Breaker trying their darndest to hurl themselves through a crowd of commuters who are innocently trying to get off at the right stop. Annoyingly, T.W.A.T.S are like sheep and when one person goes for it, others follow, leaving the pleasant travelers stranded on the platform watching the RB's smug faces depart for the next station.
What should you do? Wiggle your way right to the front of the keen travelers who will have formed an orderly bunch where they know the double doors are about to stop. When the train arrives, make a big deal out of letting others off, by using one hand to direct them to the nearest exit and the other to hold the Rule Breakers back.
Bonus: If you do it right, this will look something like the parting of the Red Sea and you can imagine that you are Moses himself.
4) Over the Shoulder Metro Controllers: They come in two forms. The first is the person that cranes their neck and forces themselves right into your (already much violated) personal space, to indulge in as much of your Metro as they can, before you turn over to the next page. The second, is the person that missed out on the free paper and is therefore jealous, so places themselves (regardless of carriage capacity) smack bang in front of you, with their back to you, so that each time you turn a page, you have to scrape it across their suit jacket.
What should you do? Turn your newspaper upside down, but continue reading as if nothing has happened. If they start giving you strange looks, mumble something under your breath about being a Capricorn and how your horoscope is great today, then laugh hysterically. They will back away. Slowly. Oh, and if they can't see what you're reading because their back is to you, simply start turning the pages with wild abandon. They'll soon have had enough of their Metro massage and will take a step forward.
5) Blatant Perverts: These ogling octopuses really don't need much explanation...especially if you are a woman. They are generally unattractive and/or overweight and in most instances you will find that a bead or two of sweat has formed on their excited brow.
And why are they excited? Because they've been staring at your tits, of course! They will find it necessary to fiddle with their general crotch area more than once during your journey (however short) and may or may not have a little bit of dribble hanging from the corner of their wet lips. They will take every bump along the way as an opportunity to thrust their genitalia up against your lovely lady lumps. Check it out.
What should you do? To really scare the shit out of the Blatant Pervert, you should respond fully to his advances. Back that booty up against the offensive T.W.A.T whilst you sing a rendition of N.E.R.D's Lapdance... "Ooh baby you want me? Ooh baby you want ME? Well you can get your lapdance here for free..." Or, if N.E.R.D isn't your bag, you can simply wait for a quiet moment, look straight into his eyes and say "pervert" just loud enough that the people around you will wonder if that really just happened. This is best done just prior to arriving at your stop - the final flourish is flouncing out of that carriage without a care in the world.
Of course, there are other kinds of T.W.A.T.S that we've failed to mention in the top five: Persistent Pushers (stand your ground. Do not give in and push back, it will incense them), Heavy Loaders (they're going on holiday with that suitcase, you're going to work, give them no sympathy), Stinkers (self explanatory, if there is an enticing-looking space going that spans approximately one meter around just one man, it means he stinks like the aftermath of a bad curry), Handrail Hoggers, Phantom Farters and of course, there's the age old Pregnancy 'shall I give up my seat' Dilemma. With child? Or just fat? You decide.
So how about we all try and have a little more consideration tomorrow. See if you can lighten up, cheer up, and get the hell up an hour earlier if you insist on being so stressed about getting on this train and not the one that arrives in oooh, another 60 seconds or so.
Things can only get better right? It's not like London is hosting the Olympics next summer and gaining an estimated 33,000 extra passengers daily or anything...
And remember, there is no 'I' in Tube.