Commuting is something that makes me quite quizzical and vexed. It’s one of those experiences we all understand, living in a city as unstoppable as London. Take walking through the Tube stations, from one line to the other, as you interchange at a station: on your way to work at the crack of dawn; on your way home at some ungodly hour. What is it that actually happens during this portion of the daily routine?
You spend minutes trying to connect to whatever Wi-Fi you can find, in the hope of catching up with today’s headlines, or aimlessly surfing the net to pass the travel time. The unspeakable sin of making eye contact with a stranger is abhorrent and must be avoided at all times. These are the looming unspoken rules of train etiquette that mute our social human nature as we are forced to shut our mouths and avert our eyes. Instead, we bury them in newspapers and books, or let them wander with the dim hope that we don’t zone out and end up staring at someone anyway.
Being crudely shoved into a human carriage elicits boredom, and the need for our eyes to engage with something is a persistent tease, so the commute is a perfect outlet for people watching. Seeing a bespectacled suited-up man on his way to work, buried in some classic novel one might expect that he’s the corporate type – a blur that has no personality. But then examine his tie, his shoes, the small stuff, and you begin to notice that he’s not all that bland. He wears fantastic pointy embossed shoes with a shiny finish and pattern of layered circles that resemble the intricate overlapping of the scales of some rarefied snake species.
Then your thoughts start overflowing, draining all your powers of alertness because you’ve passed through a station that triggers a memory. You’ve been to Camden Town before, that time that you met up with your girlfriends and went to explore the goodies in the market and wandered down the lock. You’ve walked down Southbank with a crush, and talked for hours about the pains and gain of student life in the hope of getting him or her to ask you out. You’ve waltzed down memory lane in Shoreditch, where you meant to check out a quirky bar with your S.O. but instead had your heart broken. You’ve stopped by Harrow-on-the-Hill to remember that that’s the place he said ‘I love you’ for the first time. You’ve breezed by Mile End where many a fellow student like yourself has had legendary pre-drinks and pub crawls. As well as the immeasurable amount of times you’ve too eager in your drinking attitude.
Then, you hop onto the escalator steps, carried up and out as your eyes are bombarded with an influx of catchy slogans. The little pictures, neatly summing up why you must buy a product, whiz by and don’t give your brain any moment to recalibrate. So, you stand to the right. Crazed tardy commuters rush past you, in the hope of hopping on that train that’s already blaring – to warn of closing doors.