OK Commuter

I have been a commuter on the London Underground for many years and it is easy to criticise it, as we often do. Having said that, I thought it would make a change to focus on the positives.

No matter how you get to work (unless it is entirely under your own steam) you are going to suffer from delays on occasion. If you are driving, there may be no alternative but to sit and stew. On the tube you can always switch to mainline, bus or another tube line. There is always a way round the problem. In 18 years, the only day I could not get to work on public transport was 7/7.

Most of my colleagues drive to work each day and sit in front of a computer for eight hours (as I do). It is not unusual for their journeys to take an hour or so, each way, after which they are fit only for dinner, a glass of something fortifying and a slump before the TV. Those who feel the need to exercise do so in their lunch hour in the gym, sometimes on a treadmill or a static bike. The tube commuter is fortunate that he has only to set out a little early, so when there are no delays, he can leave the train a couple of stops early and have a brisk walk before work, taking in some fresh(ish) air and enjoying the scenery. This way you arrive refreshed and ready to go. It also improves your appetite, so you can spend your lunchtime relaxing with a meal in good company rather than getting sweaty.

If you work in central London there are lots of ways to vary your journey, switching tube lines, taking an overground train, catching a bus, using a hire cycle. You could take a different route each weekday. Pop into an exhibition at a museum or gallery for twenty minutes; take a look at a building site and see how progress is coming along; watch the tourist parties on the South Bank; appreciate the architecture of St Paul’s; take some photographs; walk through a street market and listen; stop for a coffee and watch the world go by while you drink it.

Car drivers tend to reach work pre-stressed, whereas those of us on public transport have been reading the newspaper or a book, looking out of the window, maybe chatting, while someone else took care of the driving. That’s why we are mellow when we reach our desks.

Nothing but blue skies

Private time
Many commuters have learned to use their travelling time as a buffer zone between work and home. You might like to read during your journey and escape into a story; you might prefer to catch up on the day’s news in the paper; you might even prepare for a meeting by reading a report and making some notes. On the tube you can always switch off your mobile phone and claim you were in a tunnel. On the way home, you will have had time to unwind before facing your loved ones. Whatever your preference, this is your private time.

Interact with your fellow man (or woman)
It’s not compulsory, but you might even want to talk to someone on your commute: maybe a workmate, or possibly someone you only know by sight who uses the same station. Having said that, my most enjoyable tube journeys have been on a miserable Monday morning when the carriage has been packed, but completely silent. On those rare occasions, it is as if we all share these few precious minutes of calm contemplation before the start of the working week, rather like the soldiers just before the first arrow was fired at Agincourt.

I have not been commuting for a month now, so perhaps this is just nostalgia talking, but these are the best I can come up with for the time being. Let me know if you have any more.

© 2011

All aboard

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