Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Train Commandments

I am on a train for around 90 minutes in total each day. God, that’s depressing. It’s not the best part of my day. It’s a space in which getting a seat is a highlight, and something you feel a bit smug about even if it’s only for five minutes so, hardly something to shout about.

But, after yet another journey of suffering people who either have no manners, no sense or just no awareness of anything around them other than their nose, I thought it was worth blogging about. And so, without further ado: The Train Commandments. Please try to remember at least one of the points when you next board a train. Or, indeed, any form of transport where other human beings are present. 

1. Thou shalt allow air into the train
I like air. Don’t you? Nice fresh air that wakes you up a little, helps you breathe, you know the stuff. So why, oh dear commuter, must you sit there idly, in your privileged window seat, as we all roast in this cabin of heated hell? If the windows are steamy, it’s not for drawing in it’s sweat and breath and goodness knows what else, so open a window. It won’t bite. If there is not a single window open on your carriage, despite it being full of people sitting and standing in every space available, open a window. I don’t care if it’s raining. I don’t care if it’s snowing. You’re probably wearing a coat. Man up and open it so that we don’t all have to sweat and smell each other’s breath there’s just no need to do that with strangers. 

2. Thou shalt not sit next to your invisible friend
Are you sitting on the aisle side? Look at the seat next to you. Is it empty? Now look around the carriage. Is the train getting full? Are people standing? Are you approaching a station with a platform full of people? Here’s a thought: don’t keep an empty seat next to you for no reason. Someone will see it and they will climb over you to get to it. That will be awkward, they might even touch you a bit with their boot, and given that you like sitting next to empty seats, that can’t be good. Shuffle over to the window side (or the middle if you’re in a row of three, there you go) and let someone sit down without having to negotiate the space between your feet and bags. Oh, and bags on a seat? Don’t you dare.  

3. Thou shalt remember your table manners, or find some
There’s a reason kids are told to chew with their mouths closed: it’s in the hope that they will remember it as they grow older and learn to eat like civilised human beings. None of us wants to see that mashed up Maccy Ds in your mouth. More importantly, none of us wants to hear you as you munch it, followed by a slurp of your drink, followed by more munching and loud exhaling through your nose. We don’t want to see crumbs falling all over the seat. If you must eat food while travelling (we’ve all been there), at least get something that doesn’t stink, doesn’t make too much noise and that isn’t messy. A Twitter friend had to sit on a train with a woman standing up, eating a Wasabi noodle soup. One can only imagine how sickening that carriage was, with its lack of windows open, full of people standing because the seats were filled by imaginary friends, while she slurped on soup. 

4. Thou shalt bend with thy knees
When you’re standing on a train and need to pick up your suitcase/briefcase/Maccy Ds wrapper, remember: trains are quite small. People sitting down are at about waist height. If you then bend over, from your waist, to pick up said item, you are quite possibly going to thrust your backside into someone’s face a little. This is bad etiquette. It is unnecessary. Simply bend at the knees and away you go, with no awkward encounters and probably no back problems because you really should lift with your knees, not your back. Those wrappers can be heavy. 

5. Thou shalt not infect the Metro
We all hate having coughs and colds and flu because we’re British and we still have to go to work and make sure we infect everyone else. But when you’re on a train, on your not-so-merry way to work, and that little tickle comes along, don’t sneeze into your Metro. Don’t cough into it. That is not a substitute for being polite. Use your elbow or hands to catch your grimy germs or, even better, use a tissue. Or even better than that, stay at home. No one wants to touch your germy dribble while reading about the royal wedding.

6. Thou shalt limit yourself to your assigned amount of space
Train seats aren’t luxurious, or wide, or particularly comfy, but they are a certain size. They are all the same size. Which means even if you are reading a newspaper next to someone who isn’t, that does not give you the right to elbow them in the ribs as you do so. Nor does it give you the right to spread your paper across into their space. And if you do, you cannot then get mad that they begin to read it. In fact, they should probably be allowed to turn the page.  

7. Thou shalt not try to get on the train before everyone is off it
Remember Funhouse? Well, in the final part of the game they had to wait for their team mate to come out of the funhouse before they could go in. Like a relay. Apply this logic to trains. Not only do you look like an impatient child when you shove your way past an old lady who is being slow at stepping off the train, but you are actually being stupid. The more people who get off the train, the more space there will be on the train. Let them get off, considering it’s their stop after all, and when you step on there will be more seats to choose from. See?

8. Thou shalt at least pretend to understand how annoying your voice is
It’s fine to have a phone conversation on a train. Really it is. But do you have to be so LOUD? We don’t actually need to know that your best friend has annoyed you, or that you didn’t get a pay rise. We’re not going to sympathise as we are busy trying to breathe in this airless carriage while not slapping the guy digging his elbows into our ribs. At least try to talk a little quieter or keep it short we’ll know you tried, and we’ll hate you less.  

9. Thou shalt not suffocate those who are seated
It is unfair that you have to stand for part or all of your journey. We get that, we have been there. But We, the Seated, do not deserve to be suffocated by your coat. Or your bag. Or your scarf. Or your dreadlocks (seriously, this happened this morning, I felt quite pukey). Remember that the aisle, like the seats, is a certain size, and while those people sitting down may look comfy, it doesn’t mean they can handle having all the air, even the recycled air, taken away because you need to lean. This is no place for leaning. 

10. Thou shalt offer your seat to those who need it
A slightly more serious one to finish, but one that shouldn’t even need to be said. No seats left and a pregnant woman gets on? Get up. No seats and some elderly people get on? Get up. No seats and a disabled person gets on? Get up. Just be nice – it’s not hard. No one will think less of you, even in London. You might even get a smile out of someone – and that is something to shout about... 

The Train Commandments were originally published on Judy’s website, here.