“We are sorry for the delay to this service. . . ” Not what you want to hear when you’ve got up early to get a head start on the working week. With the previous train cancelled, as my now delayed train rolled in, space on this the 7.39am London bound train was no doubt going to become a problem, that was guaranteed. Fortunately though living in the sticks, despite a back log of commuters, a seat is almost always a given. For others Monday morning was set to get a lot more bleak.
First couple of stops not a problem, seats filling up nicely, by one of the bigger towns, people were filling up the central compartment. Now these commuters had a choice? Either time enforced in that they have to be at their destination by a particular time or the luxury that trains come through frequently and they are not in a rush so they can gamble that the next train may offer a seat. I watched a few people do just this, eye up the space left, decide it looked a tad squashed and wait on the platform for the next train to arrive. I observed by the next stop how demand shifts the parameters of perceived space. Not every train stops at this station so necessity outweighs the desire for comfort. These people needed to get on this this train while they had the opportunity. There was not going to be the luxury of space assessment. It was all or nothing to a choir of tuts, sighs, moans and muttered expletives – on they squeezed!
What was perceived as full 2 stops previously, offered standing room to at least another 12 by the final stop. Now I should mention that this batch of commuters are seasoned squasheriners, being the final stop before London they stand every day. They are truly the contortionists of the commuter world, I suspect it is a required life skill on Zoopla when recommending the area. This is what they train for, today with cancellations rife this was hard ball, their chance to shine, absolutely no room for amateurs. As the train pulled in there was a frenzy. By now this train was so full no one even dared utter those fateful, tut inducing words, “Could you all move down a bit” – there was just no point, anyone could see that. People were running down the platform, a crazed fearful look in their eyes running from carriage to carriage, as if being left on the platform would result in certain death. A hungry pack of lions could not have created more urgency. The more agile commuters sped down the platform to reach the end, potentially quieter, carriages first. The fuller figured commuters panted & wheezed from their unexpected morning sprint, aware that their speed and size would hinder them on two counts. Some would pause briefly assessing the 6mm x 10 mm space left, wondering whether it was worth trying to shoehorn them selves in and hope their handbag and coat made it into the train with them when the doors shut. The weekenders grasping their wheely bags surrendered to their fate. Unless they were willing to strip off their outer wear and abandon their belongings there was just no hope.
Meanwhile in the carriage the air was moist with sweat and steam. Without any personal space of their own passengers were coexisting in a manner that would be classed as infidelity if your partner caught you groin to groin in any other circumstance. The over heating bodies under winter coats & scarves meant everyone was desperately willing the train to arrive at it’s London destination. The ambitious among them maintained their resilient reader status much to the disgust of the owner of the head being used as a book rest in front. Others glared over at us, the rural folk, comfortable in our seats either taking 40 winks or having a much more pleasant literary experience. I foolishly made eye contact with an angered girl, although by the look of her face a fresh open field would have made little different to her demeanour. Nevertheless part of me wanted to say I may have a seat but I choose to live further a way and pay probably £3k more on my season ticket for the privilege.
I was glad that I’d got up early, when I finally got to work a mere 5 mins earlier than normal, oh well at least I got on and got a seat.