5:30 this evening saw me at the outer reaches of zone 6 (there were fields and trees and horses and, er, gardening centres and everything) in – and this was our big tactical error – a car. You need a car out there in the nosebleed suburbs and that meant that everybody else was in their car too, and we were inching forward at what would have been a brisk walking pace had we been a sedated sloth.
Most of the time, I like to think that my commitment to public transport is a moral thing, an informed choice about cutting down on greenhouse gases and particulates and smog and other such nasties. But at times like these I realise I wouldn’t drive to work if you paid me. Not if there was an any other way of getting about that was better, like unicycle, or strolling barefoot over broken glass. In your car you are pretty much guaranteed a seat, there are no annoying announcements over the tannoy (although little voices are prone to pipe up from the back with the unwelcome news that they have just done a wee in their pants) and you can choose the music, as long as that chimes in with the wishes of a two year old with, fortunately, a penchant for John Lee Hooker. But that’s pretty much all on the plus side. While trains can be slow and late and frustrating at times, at least you can pass the time while you wait. When you’re driving you can’t do anything – you can’t turn round and feed your toddler, you can’t leave the yellow box clear or other cars pile in and block it for you, and you can’t pull out and chase after the white van that clipped your wing mirror and then roared off on the wrong side of the road. As my sister pointed out, after about a week of that I wouldn’t be Disgruntled, I’d be Ranting Commuter. If not actually Raving Nutcase Commuter With an Uzi.
So it was with some relief that I got on the train for the rest of the journey home. As though to underline the difference there were trains waiting for me at both Palmers Green and Moorgate and I got a seat all the way. There’s a lot of talk about weaning the British off the ‘convenience’ of their cars. All I can say is that I’ve yet to experience a car journey where ‘convenient’ was the adjective that sprung to mind – unless the convenience in question was a public one, and I was travelling with a toddler.