Saturday, 23 April 2011

Training with the General Public

I am required to commute to work and the method I use is the Commuter train. The last train leaves my town at 7:30am, and I catch it from 1st stop to last stop so it provides me time to sleep!

I am not and have never been a morning person. I loathe waking up early and need to snooze at least 3-4 times before I reluctantly sit up and pout for 5 minutes. Then I walk to the bathroom with my eyes closed, feeling incredibly sorry for myself.  It really is pathetic. I am almost 30 years old and have been employed without a gap for the last 15 years. They say it takes 3 weeks to form a habit and yet, after 15 years, I am unable to adhere to the habit of waking up early.

Anyways, my inability to function in the morning allows me to be pleased with my method of commuting. I saunter on the train, and settle in the same seat every day. I got a pair of Skullcandy headphones for Christmas last year. They cover my ears and help drown out environmental sound, so I immediately don those and my biggest, darkest sunglasses. I have my “train blankie” that I actually acquired on a Norwegian train which I fold it up and use as a pillow. With my phone on my leg and my backpack on my lap, I close my eyes and let the movement of the train drift me back into slumber.  The process of determining which seat I would claim as my own was tedious and lengthy; I endured a month or two of trial and error, of being constantly disturbed by stupid conversations held by stupid people. I finally found a spot that is surrounded by other ‘regulars’, people that sit in the same seat as well, and keep relatively quiet.

It was a very frustrating progression. There are these three blonde women (not that I would ever judge people by hair/skin colour etc. I just want my readers to be able to picture the scenario) that would board the train right before the 20 minute stretch with no stops. This stretch means that I can sleep uninterrupted by the station stop announcement and the people entering the train with their heavy steps and strange new smells. These loud, trivial women would completely ruin this for me, every single day. One of them is completely self absorbed and simple minded. She voices her narcissism to her companions the entire time, loud enough for someone at the back of the train to hear every word. Her counterparts can hardly get a word in edgewise as she banters on about the gym, what she wears, her hair, and whatever else happens to spew out of her mouth. She seriously never shuts up. It’s exhausting. I finally figured out the few spots that she frequents and avoid them. I have been lucky; aside form being foolish, she must also be too lazy to walk over to the back of the train, where I attempt to sleep in peace.

There are two other groups of people that have made me “almost get up in your face and give you a piece of my mind” angry. There are these 3 Russian women that sit together every day and engage in a conversation in their mother tongue. This wouldn’t be too annoying, as I don’t understand what they’re saying so it’s impossible to follow the conversation. The problem is their volume. They don’t speak as loud as the blonde woman, but they will all speak at the same time! As the tone of their conversations escalates, so does their volume and it completely take over my thoughts and my quietly playing music.  Them, combined with the “happy pill bunch” are enough to quell any positivity that I muster in the mornings. I call them the ‘happy pill bunch’ because it is impossible to be that raucous and chipper in the morning without being on some serious meds. I mean, I love life and everything is great and my days are usually stress free and filled with fun, but there is no way in hell you will hear me speaking in such a falsely cheerful tone and such a volume so early in the morning. The go on and on, gossiping and blatantly stating that they’re better than the average person, with statements like, “Well IIII do it like this, and it’s always juuust right!” and other equally aggravating quips, always stated in a self righteous tone.  I don’t understand how being completely disrespectful to the people around you can be so self-satisfying. I can tell that they enjoy it, too. They think all the sleeping, quiet people around them are brooding and miserable, and that in comparison, they are glowing with delight. Perhaps we are miserable in our tired state, but at least we aren’t forced to entertain ourselves with psycho-babble!

The evening commute is somewhat more pleasant. Once again, I look forward to donning my shades and headphones, and catching a nap with my train blankie. It is generally less crowded, people disembark at each stop instead of boarding, and by the time I am at my stop, it is almost empty, and nice and quiet. Most of the time. The evening is when some people decide to conduct their personal lives via cell phone. For some reason, some people feel they need to yell when they’re on their phones, and I am lucky when I can only catch tidbits of conversations. I judge these overheard tidbits based on a scale of how exasperating their discussions are. “So, like and he totally said that!” is unacceptable, whereas “I just got on the train, I’ll be at the station at 7” is completely understandable. I myself am careful when having phone conversations to keep my volume at a minimum. Even if I wasn’t concerned about annoying people, why would I want the entire train to know what I am talking about? This isn’t reality TV, and the commuters don’t want to be forced to be an audience to my problems, interests, or ego.  There are always a few loud-talkers in addition to the cell-phone culprits, and I sometimes will get up and move to sit away from them. Still, it is much more tolerable to share the train with them in the evenings.

There was one occasion, however, where I had arrived at the train early, secured myself a window seat and was ready for my rest. Then, a really really fat guy sat next to me. I have a low tolerance for the morbidly obese as it is, and less of a tolerance for them taking up my much needed and treasured personal space. The train was about to leave, and it was rather full that day, so I didn’t want to get up and wander around with my blankie looking for a free seat. I figured I’d just deal with it. Then, a really tall skinny guy sat across from me! I was literally forced into my corner and unable to leave without a lot of awkwardness, especially considering my anger level; my clumsiness surely would have increased. The fat guy started eating a cookie. I looked helplessly around at the rest of the commuters only to see some Asian kid with his phone out, pointing it at me. I suspect that he was taking a picture of me pouting and huddled into the corner to post somewhere on the internet.

I have started to grow accustomed to the general public, and even almost accepting of some of them. In the evenings, I am careful to select where I sit, after the fat-man incident, and I realize that people are who they are, and cannot be changed. My dirty looks and sighs go unheeded and usually unnoticed. The other day I boarded the train and walked slowly down the aisle, cautiously viewing the passengers, trying to decide who I should sit near. Then I saw the familiar woman who wears a pretty scarf to cover her head and reads quietly and politely. She doesn’t try to take over the space that I am entitled to with her feet or belongings, and is generally non-offensive. I have even heard her talk on the phone before and I noticed that she was careful to keep her voice low and ended her conversation quickly. Once I spotted her, I decided to sit near her, even though she already had the window spot. As I sat down, we made eye contact, and she gave me a knowing smile. I assume she was relieved that she wouldn’t have to deal with the fat-man, or a loud drunk kid, or a pair of girlfriends eager to gossip and socialize. I’m sure that she recognizes me as being equally non-offensive.  Perhaps she knows me as the weird girl that is glued to the Iphone and always sleeps with a blankie. Whatever she thinks of me, I will accept it, and I will be looking for a seat near her on the train tonight.

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