It’s Monday. You awake with a sigh. You blearily turn over to shut your phone up. You changed the alarm to your favourite song to try and energise yourself but all that did was make you despise the sodding tune. Stop… or snooze? Snooze. It’s 7.15am – you can wait until 7.25. It is a Monday after all, you need to ease yourself back in.
SHIT. It’s 7.34. You roll out of bed and hastily stumble into the shower, swearing quietly as you smash your toe into the bottom of the shower door. Pits and bits, no time for anything else today. You get out and squeeze toothpaste onto your toothbrush. You half-miss, leaving a white, minty clump in the sink. You shove the toothbrush into your mouth and immediately realise that you should have had a coffee first. Bollocks.
You towel down and throw on your work clothes, only semi-dry as you only remembered to put the wash on yesterday evening and your flatmate was using the dryer. You grab your bag and keys, stumble downstairs, shove your headphones in, stick on a Spotify album called “Monday Morning Motivation,” open the door and blink at the sunlight. You steel yourself and set off for your nearest public transport station.
As you close the door behind you, your neighbour shepherds her two children out of their house. “Good morning!” they say, beaming as they do so. “Buh-uh-Goodbye!” you muster back, throwing on your best smile. That was feeble, you spanner. You should have had that coffee. You set off down the street, passing the usual group of tramps outside William Hill. You imagine it isn’t bottles of water in their brown paper bags. You realise that you rather like the song you’re listening to. I wonder who it’s by? You look down at your phone.
JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE F-
“DICKHEAD” the cyclist shouts back at you, having nearly mown you down as you absent-mindedly strolled onto the zebra crossing. You look around. Nearby pedestrians shake their heads at you. Dickheads, you think. Eventually you reach your public transport station and find that it is absolutely rammed. Not again. “Delays to the service,” you hear a tired-looking TFL representative explain to a haughty senior commuter. For some reason you take a photo of the crowd and send it via WhatsApp to your manager with the message: “Delays to the service. AGAIN! FML. Be with you ASAP.” You see that they’re online, you see the ticks turn blue… No response. Bollocks.
You queue, silently, as all British citizens are required to do. You observe your fellow commuters. Stoney-faced, suited and booted commuters well over fifty each shift uneasily, wear expressions like they’re chewing wasps and angrily check their watches every thirty seconds. I hope I don’t end up like that. There are some individual kids in school uniform making their own ways to school, quietly looking up at the adults around them but seeming utterly unfazed. I’d have never gone to school alone at that age. Some well turned-out young commuters, most likely interns, are slowly but surely going paler and paler with worry as the wait continues. You smirk to yourself. Some very casually-dressed commuters with wild hair stare at their phones. They can’t dress like that for work, surely? If you’re not going to work, why on earth would you travel now you absolute cretins? A few twenty-somethings in smart-casual attire sway slightly. As you catch a glimpse of their faces, you notice their rosy cheeks and puffy, glazed-over, bewildered eyes. One too many at The Ship there, friend? Go a bit mad on your bottomless brunch, did you? You grin. You catch one of their gazes. You look away. You realise that you have been that hungover mess more times than you would care to remember. Your grin fades.
Your chariot arrives. You cram in and your hand awkwardly gets jammed into the backside of another commuter. You hope they don’t notice and desperately concentrate on not moving any of your fingers. I’m not a sex-pest, I am NOT a sex-pest. This isn’t my fault. Blame TFL. One of the other commuters hasn’t taken their rucksack off and it is in your face. You’ll have to just lean backwards for the rest of the journey. Great. It is so, so hot. You begin to sweat. Your leg starts to go numb. Someone readjusts their standing position and accidentally pulls your headphones out of your phone. You can’t reach around to plug yourself back in or you’ll alert the other commuter to your hand upon their buttock. Oh good, no more music. You slowly start to smell something foul. It begins to burn your nostrils. You refuse to react – “He who smelled it, dealt it” as the old adage goes. An overweight, sweaty man about four feet away makes a point of loudly sniffing and wincing. Thanks mate.
Finally, FINALLY, you arrive at your stop. “Excuse me,” you announce as you begin to wrestle your way to the open doors. The commuter whose backside you definitely did not fondle raises an eyebrow at you as you move away. You hurriedly move for the door. The doors start to beep. SHIT. The doors start to close and you throw yourself through them, shoving your fellow commuters aside as you do so. The doors close on your arm and your bag is still inside. Two commuters angrily shove your bag through the gap your arm has created. You give them a thumbs-up. You see them mouth “Dickhead” back. You look at your watch. You’re meant to be at work by now.
You march through the streets as quickly as you can but you refuse to run. I still have some dignity left. You arrive at work and see that there isn’t even a queue for the lifts you’re so late. Shit. You get upstairs and find none of your team at their desks. SHIT. Team meeting. You were meant to be in early today. SHITSHITSHIT. You find the meeting room and enter, apologising profusely. “Yet another delay on the service! TFL must be run by monkeys, am I right? Hahahaha.” Your manager doesn’t respond. You all finish the meeting and your manager holds you back to berate you. As they do, you realise you haven’t stopped to pick up breakfast. You try your best to listen to their scolding, but you can only concentrate on the void that is currently where your stomach should be. “…So don’t let it happen again.” “I won’t, I’m sorry.” You both leave the meeting room and awkwardly walk back to your desk pod together. You try to make small-talk about the weekend, but given the previous conversation your manager’s responses are curt. Oh good.
You feel ashamed of being late. You feel angry at yourself. You are hungry. You are tired. You are sweaty. You are frustrated. You get through the day, the promise of your sofa at the end of it being the only thing that keeps you going. It gets to clocking-off time. Home time. Thank God. You realise that you have to make the same journey back.
If any of the above sounds familiar, you’re not the only one. In London alone, there are 31 million journeys made on TFL services every single day. With strikes occurring on the Tube, Southern Rail and across all routes every few months and services being cramped and uncomfortable at the best of times, it is little wonder that commuting is so despised. A 2014 study by the Office for National Statistics says that feelings of self-worth, job satisfaction and general happiness diminish with every successive minute of commuting – with the average journey taking around 45 minutes, that is a lot of happiness sailing out of the window.
How to change this? It may sound ludicrous to young adults but getting up earlier to miss rush-hour makes a monumental difference – try and join a gym near your work and go beforehand. Take it from me, it has a hugely positive effect on your positivity. Additionally, if your journey allows, why not walk some of the way? You get fresh air, exercise and far less stress. It’ll take longer, but listen to an audiobook and you won’t feel it’s time wasted. Just for God’s sake, if you possibly can, don’t continuously put yourself through the hell on earth that is rush-hour. Don’t follow the herd – stride out.