The joy of commuting

I once worked out that I spend approximately three days out of every month travelling to and from work (not all at once – I don’t live that far away). This is not particularly fun, nor is it cheap. I pay a small fortune every year, and still often find myself waiting in the rain for an overground train that’s failed to turn up for no apparent reason, then squeezing myself, along with all the other sardines, into a tube carriage for the second leg of my journey across London to the office.

There was that time we got halfway to London, then had to stop because of a broken down train ahead of us. After sitting for a while, it was announced that we were going to go back the way we’d just come, to take a different route. As a result, a whole hour after leaving I was exactly one stop from where I started.

Then there was the day we stopped because the train in front of us had hit an obstacle on the track, and we were advised to get off and walk to the next station. Except nobody bothered to tell us which way that was; cue lots of confused commuters wandering the streets, frowning at their iPhones.

Crowds at the station

Commuting also means I have to get up at silly o’clock (I’m so not a morning person) and arrive home late, so that before I’ve finished dinner, it’s almost time to go to sleep and start the whole thing all over again. When I go out after work, I have to have one eye on the clock all the time so I don’t miss the last train.

And don’t even get me started on snow. The only good thing about my trains in snow is that nobody really expects me to turn up to work, or if I do, I can usually leave early because my boss knows it’ll take me four hours to get home.

So I think it’s safe to say I’m not the happiest commuter in the world. But that said, I do get a lot of reading done. And sleeping. Plus it was my choice to move to Kent and keep my job in London, so I can’t really complain. Although obviously I do (see above).

And occasionally nice things happen. Every now and again, you get a happy tube driver who’ll sing to you. Or sometimes there are cute toddlers who say ‘bye’ to everyone around them for five minutes before they actually get off. (Not to be confused with the toddlers who scream non-stop for 20 minutes while you’re stuck in a tunnel.) And at certain times of the year you get to see a nice sunset on the way home (or, more depressingly, sunrise on the way to work).

Parsons Green tube station, February 2013

Recently, someone at Embankment station started writing a thought for the day on a board by the entrance, although it’s obviously someone who works shifts because you get them for a week and then they vanish for a while. We started with stuff like ‘Wonderful Wednesday!’ and then moved on to ‘A true friend shares your tears as well as your smiles’. And last Friday there was the vaguely sinister ‘Never rely on anyone. Because even your shadow leaves you when you’re in darkness.’ Cheery.

But there was one I really liked last week: ‘When you’ve got a tough decision to make, flip a coin. Not to decide for you, but so you can figure out what you really want while it’s in the air.’ I’m horrible at making decisions, so I’m definitely trying this tip next time.

Apparently a couple of staff members do the same thing at Angel; I looked them up and it turns out they have a website called thoughtsofangel.com. And they were briefly famous in Japan.

Commuting to work is a pain, and doesn’t always go according to plan. But at the end of the day, at least I have a job to commute to, which seems like something to be thankful for. And getting annoyed when the train breaks down doesn’t actually achieve anything, although it might feel therapeutic at the time. Much better, surely, to look up the day’s quote on the Angel website and have a little smile.

This video is in Japanese – but you get the picture.

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