Thursday, 12 November 2015

Public Transport Idiot Bingo

Hey look, it's another article that didn't get to print. So let's dump it here in my writing graveyard / blog (note: need to work on selling it):

Public Transport Idiot Bingo

It’s costly, it’s crowded, it devours your time like some sort of mythical beast that eats…time; yes, it can only be commuting.

That daily trudge back and forth to a destination we don’t even want to end up at. A quick peruse of the Metro, peppered with the occasional existential realisation that our lives are being devoured by pure mundanity, then maybe a cheeky Sudoku.

So given that this is the time and place where we are all at our collective lowest ebb, it’s hard to imagine that we would want to make it harder for each other by being dicks isn’t it?

And yet…

The only way to survive is to turn the grind into a game. Namely, Public Transport Idiot Bingo.

That way, the next time you have an elbow in your ribs, or an armpit in your face, instead of a little bit of you dying inside, you can jump up and shout ‘house!’ instead.

See how many of these specimens you can tick off in one journey. You will probably win every day.

The Phone People Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way early. The phone people. With their phones. We’ve all sat next to Phoney McPhonerson. Yapping their drivel, in their best loud voice. The conversation is never necessary and in all cases could certainly wait. Forever. Their words drill into your skull. You start the same sentence of your book over and over. Nope, it still hasn’t gone in. You eventually give up and stare out of the window, all hope of useful pursuits crushed. Your journey becomes dead time. Cue the second existential crisis of the day. Award yourself a bonus point if you spot one of these varmints in the quiet zone. Award yourself extra, extra bonus points if you get up the courage to tut at them. The highest level of recourse available to the commuter.

The Old Phone People Old people with mobile phones. Now this brings with it a different but equally awful set of problems to the ones invoked by the regular Phone People. The conversations are not really an issue. Usually lasting the ten seconds it takes to tell their spouse they are on the train and should arrive in twenty minutes. No, with them, it is their phone settings that cause the issues. The keypad tones. The wretched keypad tones, that we thought all of humanity had mutually agreed to switch off; always on. The awful sound of them texting, slowly, for ages. Forget water torture. Put them in with the prisoner. They’ll be singing like a canary within minutes. And the ringer volume. Always set at the top level. Eardrum destruct level. A problem they compound by taking eons to extract their ringing phone from the bottom of their bag. Tick them off your game card and then move carriages for your own sanity.

The Loud Talkers I’m not even talking quiet zone loud talkers here. They go without saying. No pun intended. No, I am talking talker talkers. Obnoxious talkers. Good luck hearing yourself think when these guys hop on board. They are performing their conversation for the carriage. They keep looking around, all pleased with themselves for being the life and soul of this dull commuter train. They think they are a great wit. They think you want to hear these gems. They are bang wrong. This species of commuter is usually found later at night – the result of some post-work drinks – but do not let your guard down, they can be a rush hour occurrence too. Which brings us neatly to our next category…

The Non-Commuters The non-commuter on the rush hour service. Christ. They stick out a mile. They don’t know the rules. Spoken or unspoken. They destroy the equilibrium. Upset the fragile ecosystem. They must be stopped. They will pretty much always be in civvies, some will have luggage, some will have kids in tow, but ultimately it is their behaviours that betray them. They don’t know where to stand. They get in the way. They have loud, jolly conversations. They laugh. Laugh? This is no place for laughter. They do not push the door release button when they are right next to it and therefore very much in charge of it. But most of all, they increase the already fierce competition for space and seats. Something the daily commuter is already very on edge about. It’s bad enough competing with your fellow pros who know the protocols. These bumbling amateurs are a curve ball too far on a rainy Monday morning.

The Headphone Wearers You board the train and the carriage seems fine. Normal enough. Nice and quiet. Yes, I will do well here, you dare to think. Next stop and more people get on. Nobody boarding is displaying any obvious twattery. No phones to ears, no loud mouths. But the wave of relief doesn’t last long. What’s that faint sound? It’s getting closer. Ah, it’s the person seating themselves next to you and the tinny sound of their bad music choices. On a par with old people keypad tones, this constant niggle will drive you to despair all the way to your destination. Bonus points if you are wearing headphones and can still hear their music over your own.

The Couple Couples that commute together. It should be a thing of beauty. A shard of humanity in this bleak commuter wilderness. But let’s face it. It’s just annoying. Talking, giggling, holding hands and then sauntering along as though it’s a seaside holiday rather than the busy rush hour concourse at London Waterloo. Almost as bad as non-commuters. In fact maybe worse. You’re meant to be one of us guys. You should know better! Bonus points if you spot a couple who have clearly had a domestic before boarding the train and are still subtly sniping.

The Bag People With train ticket prices soaring and salaries stagnating, the several thousand pounds you forked out on your travel pass is bad enough. But wait, hark, what is that I hear approaching? It’s the Bag People. Here to add insult to injury by demanding the seat you more than paid for, to accommodate their backpack, briefcase, satchel or – worst of all – oversized handbag. Feigning a complete lack of peripheral vision as people board at each stop and the train gets more and more packed, they hold on to their ill-gotten second seat for as long as possible. Like a troll overseeing a fairy tale bridge, you must engage them to be allowed to pass. The toll? A snarky look, a woe is me sigh, a pantomime display of effort when moving the offending object to its rightful place of either baggage rack or floor. Speaking of the floor, bonus points if you spot a Bag Person who is trying to render the seat opposite them uninhabitable by placing their load in the space in front of their feet.

The Aisle Seat Hog A distant relative of the Bag People, the Aisle Seat Hogs have taken the baggage on the aisle seat format and upped the ante; yeah, human on the aisle seat baby, much harder to displace. These sly dogs rely on a combination of camouflage – if there is someone sitting in the aisle seat, then the window seat is surely taken, people think as they pass by without looking properly – and the abuse of our good old British politeness – Asking someone to move? Inconveniencing them slightly? For shame. Like their covetous counterparts, they will move if asked, and usually with the same degree of magnanimity i.e. nil. Their attachment to the aisle seat means they will only permit you the window, as a result, you will sometimes be forced to ask them to let you back out at your stop. The classic aisle hog will not get up for a second time and will only turn slightly in their seat, forcing you to rub your bum in their face. Maybe that is their sick little end game.

The Laptoppers Tappy tappy tap tap tappy tap tap tappy tap tappy tappy tap tappy tap tappy. Tap….tappy tappy tappy tap tap tap…..tap tappy tap. Tap….tap. The classic, and excruciating, sounds there of the common Laptopper. They board the train with a latte and a look on their face that says ‘I am always on duty…business duty’ Out comes the laptop and then starts the tap, rap, click and clack of their morning emails. To ensure that everyone thinks they are an extremely important hot shot, the Laptopper types in the style of someone trying to hack into the mainframe in a 1980s movie. Their try-hard ways tell you they are definitely a mediocre middle manager and nothing is actually at stake here. Which makes their torturous piercing of the otherwise unbroken train silence that little bit more insufferable. A distant relation of the Blackberry user, whose subtle taps and clicks are less annoying by contrast but still torturous over a protracted period. Save it for the office people.

The Space Invaders Help, help, we’re being invaded! By people with no spatial awareness! *Looks to camera* *Screams* They edge you out of your own seat, until you are clinging on by half a bum cheek. They stare ahead whilst doing it. Pretending you don’t exist. You start to see how Bruce Willis didn’t know he was dead. Sorry, spoilers. The businessman who wants to sit legs fully akimbo and will need half of your seat to so do, thank you very much. The person opposite edging their feet ever forward into your leg space until your knees are bent backwards under your seat and you are starting to develop DVT. The woman who insists on keeping her handbag on her shoulder, and lodges it into your rib cage as she takes her seat next to you. Resist them if you can. Nudge back. Flinch. Stretch. Employ the commuter death stare. They will consume you completely if you let them.

The Feet on Seatsers A typically off peak occurrence – although some are bold enough to try it in rush hour, if circumstances permit – it’s the Feet on Seatsers, with their dirty feet all over the, now dirty, seats. These languorous types like to make themselves nice and comfy. They’re not even trying to protect a seat like the Bag People or the Aisle Seat Hogs. No, they just want to put their feet up and simply cannot wait to do it somewhere more appropriate. Often found wearing an expression that seems to say, ‘I’m not like you squares, I mean look at me, I’m like a cool rapper or something’, their smugness is sometimes much worse than the original infraction. Bonus points if you see one getting told off by a train guard or an old lady and immediately sitting up straight and behaving. Rebels without any balls.

The Beauty Queens These ones sneak up on you. One minute they’re a normal commuter. The next, they are a fully licenced mobile beauty parlour. There is no way of spotting a Beauty Queen until they produce the dreaded make-up bag and by then it’s too late. Once that bad boy has been unleashed, you know what’s coming next, and there’s nothing capable of stopping it. These girls mean business. They are willing to risk poking their own eye out with a mascara wand should the train hit a bump. And so it begins. Flailing arms, elbow pokes, fidget, fidget, fidget, put one item away, get out another, put one implement down, pick up another. Your field of vision is full of their annoying twitchy movements. They are the human equivalent of strobe lighting. Epileptics, avert your eyes! Then after half an hour of this silent ruckus, they look pretty much the same, and you’re covered in their excess powder.

The Coughers Mostly seen in the winter months, this is a classic commuter breed. Here they come, entering a confined space of all places, hacking their guts up, and instantly infecting half a dozen others, like some sort of low rent zombie apocalypse movie. Go for the head! It’s their weak spot. Ok, this isn’t completely fair. People can’t help having a cough. People will sometimes have coughs. We should probably pity them a bit. Going to work poorly. Let’s start over and direct this ire where it truly belongs; with the No Hands Coughers. Born in a barn, with nobody to teach them coughing etiquette, they don’t even seem a tiny bit inclined to raise their hand to their stupid mouth when the spluttering begins. Moi? Cover my mouth? But that would involve moving my hands. And I am currently using both to hold this riveting Metro. So you will all just have to get a face full of my spit, germs and bad breath. Not even sorry.

The Eaters And finally, The Eaters, or rather the smelly eaters. The ones who think it’s a good idea to visit the Cornish Pasty Company before boarding a sealed capsule. The grease, the pong, the detritus, the humanity. If you are on a long journey then ok, a modest meal may be in order, but we are talking commuter trains here. If your journey is under two hours, have a Twix and wait nicely for you tea. Of course the light snacker is not entirely innocent. Filling the air with the crinkle, crack, crinkle, crack of a roughly handled crisp packet. Food should be seen but not heard.

So that's the game card. Match them all to win the game but lose in real life.