I am, like most commuters, a creature of habit. I aim for the same train, the same carriage and I even have a favourite seat – well not a favourite, exactly, (that would involve it having more in the way of a roaring log fire nearby, maybe a faithful hound, certainly a tin of chocolate biscuits handily placed) but the seat I aim to sit in, all other things being equal. But there’s a problem with favourite seats – other people tend to have them too. In some cases this can lead to an unhealthy contention, a bit of jostling at the doors, sharp suited commuters racing each other down the aisle and elbowing little old ladies aside in their rush to be first for the prize. I’d never stoop to that, obviously. But what about when you get a nuisance commuter, someone with a personal habit that sets your teeth on edge, whose favoured seat is close enough to yours that you have to endure it every single day? How long would you stick it out for?
I thought I had it bad with a bunch of passengers on my morning train who clearly work together and who have taking to infesting my favourite 2-by-3 seat cluster with their inane chatter for the entire length of the journey from Vauxhall to Kew Bridge and beyond. They get on at Waterloo, so always beat me to it, and recruit reinforcements at Clapham Junction so that everything has to be said twice. They talk about the sorts of things that people do when they don’t know each other too well – holidays, builders, a little light joshing. It’s dull enough that I can’t tune it out, and worse, the details are beginning to lodge in my brain. It’s almost more than I can do to prevent myself from chipping in at times helpfully, when one of them asks a question. ‘No, it’s not Morrocco she’s going to this year, it’s the Maldives,’ or ‘The kitchen extension? Six weeks late now and counting, after the plumber put the sink in upside down.’ Yet day after day I stick it out because, damnit, it was my favourite seat before it was theirs. And besides, I want to know how that extension turns out.
But I am not alone. Disgruntled Commuter’s Cannon St. correspondent writes of his experience with one of the worst nuisance commuters of all: the nose picker. The kind who – well no, let me put it in my correspondent’s own words, for the picture he paints is compelling:
"First he blows a few times and manages that silly farting noise that i have tried for but never quite achieved without cheating. Then he looks. Then he wraps the handkerchief tightly around his index finger and inserts said finger in his left nostril, which is large and hairy by the way. He turns and twists, goes really deep, infact i’m sure i’m gonna see that finger come out of his ear one night. He then does the same in the other hairy nostril, has a long hard look at what he’s found and then looks me straight in the eyes as if to say ‘Well what d’ya think about that then’."
Does our correspondent change carriages? No, he does not, for he is made of sterner stuff than I am. But here’s a point for you all to ponder as the year draws to its dreary close: What would make you change seats, carriages, or even trains? And do you have any stories to share to get us through the Christmas period?