Going Off The Rails


 To the occasional traveller, getting on a train is a means to an end, perhaps even a novelty. For the regular commuter, ‘training it’ is a whole different world, where people become removed from how they usually act. Like everything in life, travelling by train requires its own set of rules, and the behaviour that goes along with it. Generally, it won’t be of the stress-free variety that the experience provides; instead, you are very likely to develop depression as a result of mixing with the same type of people every day. They will most likely be as morose and silent as you, creating a cruel circle of despondency and hopelessness.
Of course, there are those souls who start off cheerfully. These are the beginners, and are to be pitied. They hold unfounded notions of little old women being given seats by smiling businessmen, revealing the kindness of human nature. Little do they know that on a train, the survival of the fittest is the only rule. The ensuring sardine fest will be a rude yet accurate awakening of how our transport system likes to transport the large majority of its train bound citizens … without the brine, of course.
I say the majority; there is the choice to chop off an arm and a leg, sell some family jewellery and take out a second mortgage, and buy a non-pleb ticket. This golden purchase separates you from the middle and upper-middle low-lifes, and ensures that you have 2 inches more of legroom, some complimentary rail food, and the everlasting disgust of your subordinate passengers.
Train companies are not known for engendering a sense of fun or interest among their unfortunate passengers. Hence, various methods are used to distract the passenger from the brutal ticking of the sands of life, spent on Southern Rail. The most popular is the newspaper … unless you happen to be sitting next to the broadsheet wielding yuppy who doesn’t recognise the term ‘personal space’. The astute newspaper reader will have cottoned onto the iPad method of reading media print in a way which is far less intrusive to their fellow sardines. However, these people will be sitting in First Class. The constant rustling and invasion of The Times will mean you spend the journey controlling certain paper-pulping urges. However, the little bit of you wishing you too had a paper will awaken when someone with such an item is getting off before your stop. The eyeing up of potential opposition begins, judging time over distance, and the likelihood that you’ll have to fight for the privilege of a second-hand newspaper.
Everyone knows of the rule regarding little old ladies and seats. If you are comfortably seated, and a wizened and wise elderly person gets onto a packed train, it is correct and polite to offer up your seat for their relaxation and satisfaction. However, what the propagators of this urban rule never anticipated was the aggressive WI member armed with hefty cake tins and jars of rhubarb jam who squares you up and grunts ‘get off’. Their heckling of Tony Blair unveiled a new Women’s Institute determination to do away with the homely, motherly image … and train travellers should quake in their boots when approached by any old women with a steely glint in their eye.
Having fended off your fellow passengers, clutching your overpriced brown-liquid-in-a-cup and with early-onset depression, you find a seat and settle down for the ordeal. If its cold and chilly outside, don’t be surprised to hear that your train operator is experiencing difficulties with the ‘wrong kind of snow’ (British Rail, 1991), or that a faster train carrying more privileged people than your cattle cart has priority over the rail network. Your journey takes twice as long, the conductor is northern, and at the end, the tannoy will thank you for choosing that particular brand of consumer hell. You can’t bear to contemplate taking the same journey tomorrow.
Eventually, though, some rail passengers will end it all in the most fitting way possible; under the wheels of the 12:45 from London to Peterborough. A good way to annoy your fellow passengers one last time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/earivir Harry Parkhill

    Very Entertaining, keep it up!