There were, however, a series of minor incidents that cast a slight shadow over the day. In increasing order of unpleasantness:
- a drunk homeless man invited the entire carriage to snuggle with him under his duvet, before necking vodka from the bottle
- two men collided slightly in the crush between people getting off and on the train; this resulted in a bellowing, furious row
- a woman pushed a blind lady out of the way so that she could board more quickly; it was spotted by the ticket inspector and, after he remonstrated with her, she shouted angrily at him, leading to her being barred from getting on altogether
- a bunch of teenage lads piled on a smaller boy, making him cry; when fellow passengers intervened, they turned on them, leading to one of the Good Samaritans getting bitten on the hand
It was a weird, discombobulating series of events that seeped into us. It caused us to become a little bit anxious, a bit subdued. It made things unpleasant.
It's stuff like this - and the recent controversy over "Women Who Eat On Tubes" - that makes public transport a nightmare. It knocks you out of sorts.
When we all board a train together, we become a community. I'm not saying we should all immediately join hands and make a caring circle; that would upset me just as much. We are British after all. But we're all trapped together inside a little tin tube for five, fifteen, five hundred minutes, and everyone wants that experience to be as painless as possible. Read your book. Have a chat with your friends. Listen to music on your headphones. But always keep one mantra in mind: is this polite?
The incidents above weren't polite. They invaded the community of passengers, and sent a little shudder down the train. People's moods shifted. That incident made ripples, expanded in the tight space, raised blood pressures and tensions. We were all trapped together - we could reach up and touch the ceiling, reach out and touch the walls, and none of us could leave until we reached another station. The people who disembarked had a slightly higher heart rate and a slightly frazzled brain and went and spread that around a bit more.
Just be polite on trains. If there's a delay, remember that everyone else is delayed as well; your appointment is not necessarily the most important one on the train. If you missed your breakfast, and need to eat en route, perhaps consider a granola bar or a sandwich rather than a Big N Tasty Fried Breakfast Smorgasbord that'll stink out the carriage and make everyone else's stomach rumble. If you need to text someone, make sure you have the keyboard sounds switched off. If you have to beat someone up, have the decency to take it out onto the street, instead of clattering around a train. Little things. Think about other people.
In an ideal world, of course, we'd all have individual pods that swept us to our destination, like those tiny trains they have at Heathrow Airport, and we wouldn't have to deal with other people at all. It won't happen though. We live on a small, busy island and we're just getting closer to each other all the time. Why not make life better for everyone? Before you discuss your faulty uterus across the carriage, or cut your toenails, or see what every ringtone on your phone sounds like (and yes, I have witnessed all these things) ask, is this polite? And then tuck your clippers away and take out a book and start reading.
Just a tiny thought. Just enough to make everyone feel a little better.