The Ten Commuting Commandments

The Ten Commandments
Brought to you in association with Charlton Heston.

It’s no use pretending that commuting is easy. Considering we do it at the busiest times of day, surrounded by hundreds of people all with their own agenda, it was never going to be the most fun part of the working week. Fortunately, there are some simple rules to follow which I picked up on a recent commute to Mount Sinai…

1) Thou shalt always move down the carriage

Possibly the golden rule of commuting on all forms of transport, there is very little point in simply boarding a vehicle and then just standing there at the nearest available area. The herd behind you still need to board and so you’re delaying your own journey. It’s a relatively simple equation and one that makes even more sense when the aisle spec actually gives you MORE room than being pig-penned in when the train fills up further at the next stop. Expect me to shout if you don’t do this. As Bobby Brown quite rightly once commented, that’s my prerogative.

2) Thou shalt not pay for purchases under £5 with thy Switch card

Whether I’m in a hurry or killing time waiting for a delayed train, there isn’t anything more frustrating than being behind someone in Starbucks who is using a card to make a regulation loose change payment. We don’t live in a cashless society, and the use of cards simply causes a myriad of mis-read chips, declined transactions and machine failures that could be avoided via the use of old fashioned pound notes. This one is intrinsically linked to the unwritten eleventh commandment about sensible cashpoint usage; you can usually guarantee that there are other ATMs available other than those directly next to the station platforms, so stop queuing in a triple snake of 400 people and getting in my way.

3) Thou shalt not conduct banal conversation

There are a few occasions when it is acceptable to speak to someone on a train:

a) When asking the conductor for a ticket.

b) When apologising for accidentally bumping into someone due to a sudden train sway.

c) Asking someone to move themselves and their increasingly offensive family of mouthbreathers out of your way so you can either move down the aisle (see Commandment 1) or somehow extricate yourself from the rickety deathtrap.

Every other reason for opening your stupid trap on public transport is entirely unacceptable. Do I care that Margaret is back in the ‘hospikal’? No. Am I bothered about how you got to the station and how much traffic there was? No. Do I need to know what you had for tea last night (bearing in mind I can probably still smell it)? No. Keep all thoughts to yourself.

Commuter Train
How to make friends on the train.

4) Thou shalt not make friends on public transport

Sometimes this can go hand in hand with the above, leading to dangerously repetitive conversations spilling over from the previous day. Presumably, if I have overheard that same joke before (accompanied by that same forced laugh) then you’re a pretty boring dullard and your accomplice is only speaking to you out of sympathy and because you historically assumed the same spec on the platform. This practice is very risky, and can lead to going for coffee or even an alcoholic beverage together. Be warned.

5) Thou shalt not bring thine own wheels onto public transport

Ah, the bicycle. A wonderful invention for a weekend jaunt into the countryside or a quick trip to the shops in the daytime in order to save the ozone layer. But let’s face it, it isn’t for carrying around with you like some sort of wheeled handbag. If you’re so serious about being a helmeted lycra-clad warrior, then maybe consider sitting on your little saddle and moving your legs in a circular motion? The trend of taking bikes on trains (without having to pay extra for the additional space taken, natch) is getting worse with the now-mandatory Brompton hate machines turning up in each carriage. Handy tip – in the time it’s taken you to transform your Decepticon, I’ve walked to work.

6) Thou shalt have thine ticket ready for inspection

Picture the scene; you get the same train to the same station every single day. You’re in a rush. So why is the last thing you bother to think of to prepare your annual gazillion quid pass for inspection once disembarked? It isn’t hard to keep it in the same pocket, or maybe even in a special pouch on your utility belt, so please don’t make me walk straight into you as if I’m performing a particularly violent piece of early-morning anal savagery whilst you fumble about. It’ll only end in tears. Oh, and you’ve just missed that connecting train.

7) Thou shalt not read large newspapers in enclosed spaces

Common sense once again, if we’re all cramped up like a jar of particularly over-friendly anchovy fillets, there probably isn’t room for you to whip out your daily rag. Even more importantly, if you decided instead to pull out your mobile telecommunication device and boot up the icon labelled “Internet”, you’d probably find news that is less than a week old anyway. I can probably reveal today what will be in next week’s editions of the litterer’s favourite “Metro” anyway:

  • Man makes pair of shoes out of lobsters.
  • Leathery celebrity mistaken for antique bedside table.
  • Being alive makes you dead one day.

Newspapers on trains – it’s what Kindles were invented for.

8) Thou shalt not buy leaky headphones

Let’s face it, very few people have exactly the same taste in music, so it’s pretty frustrating when even your own headphones can’t drown out the wailing of the latest R&B chart-botherer or the jungle bass crunk of a dance floor anthem. The only positive spin on this is my invention of the soon-to-be-turned-into-a-TV-show-hosted-by-Ant-‘N’-Dec game, Leaky Headphone ShazamTM. Not only does being able to use your own mobile device to identify the track in question highlight the biggest offenders, it also tells you which are the latest, most hateful ‘artists’ in the hit parade. Two wins for the price of one.

9) Thou shalt not bring an entourage of children and shopping bags onto commuter trains.

The scourge of many a commuter, the last minute dash for a soon to be departing train is acceptable when unavoidably delayed, but not when you’re too self-important to avoid busier times and laden with 739 bags of tat from your once a year trip to town. Let’s face it, all you’ve spent the past five hours doing is trying to squeeze your fifty stone frame into a £4.99 Primark bikini for ‘yours holidays’. No excuse for being late. And leave your caterwauling lifestyle choice on the OUTSIDE of the train next time would you?

Ecco The Dolphin
Ecco – Texting away on his very own TransPennine Express.

10) Thou shalt set ALL mobile device tones to ‘off’.

The fact that I can no longer count on both of my hands AND feet the number of times I have assumed Ecco the Dolphin is aboard the same train as me, clicking away, is deeply, deeply disturbing. I really have no idea what people get from having keypad tones set to tap-tap mode, other than it being some form of reminder that their hearing still works, or that they are still alive despite their obvious lack of mental capability. Also on this list are those still chuckling to themselves at their ‘hilarious’ “Help! I’m in your pocket!” ringtones, along with the clown car horn honk and the radar text alert. For clarity, no, you’re not a ship’s captain or a kidnapper. Well actually, you might be. And you’re definitely a clown…

This Is England

If an alien visited planet Earth today and took a snapshot on his space-Nokia of this once great country, he would probably send it back to the mothership with “Danger – keep off” attached. Where once this rich and powerful nation could tell the world what to do, through abysmal government and a growing population-wide “don’t care” attitude, England has become an absolute joke.

Buses, roads and trains are awash with litter and dirt – this isn’t because of a lack of cleaners working for public transport companies, this is because the adult general public are no better than vermin at the best of times. They have a holier than thou attitude that someone will always clear up their mess for them. WRONG. They should be taking responsibility for their actions. Is it really that hard to take your free paper with you where you can chuck it in a recycling bin? Could you not take your apple core with you rather than lobbing it from your car window, claiming it is biodegradable so it doesn’t matter? Can you not hang onto your bus ticket for a few more minutes rather than just littering the floor with it?

Being able to drive is no longer a respected privilege, people simply think it is a God-given right. The standard of driving in this country becomes worse and worse by the day, and the roads on a Friday when everyone is rushing to get home whilst simultaneously hollering down their mobiles to arrange their weekend social life are a deathtrap at best.

Footballers are prima donnas. Rugby players are rapists. Cricketers are alcoholics. Athletes are drug addicts.

Tourists are getting stabbed to death and torched. Kids are being shot and stabbed on the streets daily. What does the government do? Create ridiculous laws saying that you can pick someone for a job because they are female – hang on, if I am recruiting, I will pick someone based on (and here’s the clever bit) THEIR ABILITY TO DO THE JOB. I wouldn’t care if they were male, female, pink, blue, red or green, if they can do a job they are all just human beings at the end of the day.

The police do a fantastic job in fighting all sorts of crime committed by all sorts of people. They have to deal with all sorts of scum, putting their lives on the line day in, day out and they should be treated with respect. But when these criminals go to court, the Crown Prosecution Service ridicule the police’s job time and time again, dishing out pathetic sentences because the government cannot afford to keep that many people in jail. Even if people do go to prison, it isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a summer camp where good behaviour is rewarded with Sky Plus and a shiny new car. To me, good behaviour in prison should be rewarded with slightly less of a daily thrashing. Nothing more, nothing less. No wonder people re-offend, the threat of prison is so pathetic there is nothing putting these people off.

Then of course we look at the media. Vilifying fat and thin celebrities. Criticising the very government that they were partly responsible for bringing to power. Scaring people with stories about the so-called credit crunch, so that they are so scared to spend that they make matters even worse.

Papers even criticise TV for being full of violence and unsuitable content, then the papers themselves make their money by publishing pictures of war, crime and sex. This blame culture is pathetic. Even Noel Gallagher is blaming video games for the rise of crime amongst teenagers – it comes to something when even the token controversial rock star of the day is entirely out of touch with reality.

The great English summer no longer exists – ruined by persistent rain and yobs at Wimbledon shouting out and cheering double faults. You cannot get a pint for less than £3. You cannot go to the corner shop for a paper because it’s either been demolished or boarded up and daubed with graffiti. Post Offices are being closed down, the high street is dead and nobody cares.

Where did it all go wrong? Just because those who fought for this country’s freedom are mostly no longer with us, does not mean we should forget what they did and why they did it. Those brave souls who gave their lives for this country are essentially having their memories urinated on by those who would rather spit on the pavement than help a blind person across the road.

This is England – and frankly it’s embarrassing.