Provocative opinions aired on the clothes line of life.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Perils of Public Transport


The atmosphere on public transport and how people choose to behave on it, are endlessly fascinating to me. There is a heightened sense of unawareness prevalent throughout the journey which reflects just how self-centered a society we really are. People chattering away on the latest smart phone or to their commuter buddy having the most ridiculous conversations, completely oblivious to the fact that those around them are silently judging their latent stupidity.

Just recently I was making a short journey on a First Great Western train from Cardiff to Swansea, and found myself with an uncharged iPod, not a publication in sight and a replacement phone with no Wi-Fi access. How on earth was I to pass the listless minutes? Thankfully after the experience I have come to the conclusion that the setting is an untapped resource of inspiration. Accidental eavesdropping is people watching’s more affluent cousin; richer in all aspects of comedic value and witticism material by far.

In front of me were two young women, who throughout the entire duration of the 45 minute journey tackled the significant topic of wedding day etiquette. I’m not a person who has ever even contemplated what type of bride I’d be, so I was way out of my depth on this triviality. Apparently it’s not just about the ring or the dress or even the venue any more, it’s about the timing of the day’s events. Because apparently an hour and a half is too short in which to adequately fill your guests stomachs, but anything over two and a half hours is construed as just too arduous. The toasts should be condensed to just the immediate family, allowing perhaps one or two work colleagues/old friends. In typical female fashion there were no justifications offered for these opinions, (but I imagine it’s because really, once you’ve heard one conservative ice breaker from an elderly relative and a daring ice breaker from a cocky groomsman, found in a standard search engine, you’ve pretty much heard them all).

They went on and on and on. Honestly, they scrupulously analysed every typical wedding day activity, scheduling it into the most appropriate time slot. Because the key to a good wedding isn’t ensuring that you pace your alcohol intake, but more importantly it’s to ensure that you pace the itinerary of your guests like that of a carefully structured circuit race. The theme of the day is seamless not sentiment after all. And you know exactly who these women were. Early 30-slightly overweight-not a sniff of a boyfriend in 18+ months let alone a fiancee. An utterly preposterous conversation to be having, especially when they could be chattering about shoes, or cocktails or pink things. That’s what single women are limited to after all.

Then there was the young girl with an undecipherable accent sat adjacent to me, making an incessant racket on her mobile phone to someone she obviously wanted to impress. She haughtily expressed how her and her work colleagues had just ordered a round of alcoholic beverages and how crazy that fact was since it wasn’t yet 5pm. Except it wasn’t a fact. She made this phone call 20 minutes into the journey and the seat next to her had remained vacant throughout. And as for the beverages all she had in front of her was a half-empty fruit cup. I’ll concede that every one fabricates events once in a while to make themselves feel marginally better about their otherwise mundane existence. But in front of a carriage load of people who can see that you’re being grossly untruthful? I for one wouldn’t want my blatant lies echoing throughout rush hour. But that’s just me.

Since the experience I’ve been idly wondering if I’ve ever fallen victim to a sarcastic stranger delighting in my politically incorrect comments or ill-informed opinions while on some mode of public transport. And then I remembered that in terms of train etiquette, I was traditionally British; kept my eyes averted to anything other than someone elses eye line, while mentally assessing whether to get a taxi to my planned destination or to walk. I’m safe. Are you?