I loathe everything about the daily commute with a passion that’s quite possibly unmatched.
Now that I’ve clearly baselined the conversation, let’s get cracking.
Of course ‘the daily commute’ refers to the tedious daily routine of getting ourselves to and from our place of work. The whole idea of forcing a state of wakefulness and schlepping off to work every morning is sufficiently unappealing in its own right. But arguably everything that happens between leaving home and arriving at work is even more hate-worthy than anything that could possibly happen while we’re there.
‘The morning commute’ is a polite way of describing the process whereby thousands of zombie-like people all head in roughly the same direction at roughly the same time, to get somewhere they don’t want to go, to spend all day someplace they don’t want to be, doing things they don’t want to be doing, without being as awake as they need to be because they haven’t had as much sleep as they should’ve had, either because they’re responsible for too many offspring or because they were up too late the night before doing stuff they actually enjoy doing (or a combination of the two, if they’re not already thought of as one and the same – apparently for some folk that is actually possible).
Quite frankly, mornings are all a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
‘The afternoon commute’ is effectively ‘the morning commute’ in reverse, but exponentially more dangerous because by then the zombies are wide awake and raring to go. Their one goal is to stop doing the thing they don’t want to be doing and get away from the place they don’t want to be as quickly as possible, so they can get back to someplace they’d prefer to be, doing stuff they actually enjoy doing.
On balance, the afternoon commute has far more in common with a war zone than its morning counterpart.
I’m a ranty old man so I obviously do my best to avoid both of them, for many and varied reasons. Most of my most savage grievances involve trains or walking, since that’s my usual morning and afternoon combination when getting to and from the office. To wit, 18 reasons that the commute piques my ire:
1. Old people in the central business district during morning rush hour: it’s a given that it shouldn’t be allowed, but why they’d want or even need to be in the middle of a city centre heaving with corporate zombies at 8:45 in the morning is another question entirely. I mean, I know they all get up at 5am for no apparent reason, but surely there’s somewhere else they can go?
2. Children in the central business district during morning rush hour: let’s not waste time on declarations of illegality where kids are concerned, let’s cut straight to the chase: fact #1: morning peak hour is always at least half as awful, if not even less so, during school holidays; fact #2: kids on trains, school buses and parents on ‘the school run’ already make a significant enough contribution to the awfulness of peak hour, so who the hell schedules school excursions that place entire classes of school kids in the middle of the CBD at 9 o’clock on a weekday morning? I know they generally would’ve started school by then, but seriously – they have all day to do this shit!
3. Walking on the wrong side of the footpath: not keeping left as a pedestrian is both problematic and illogical as a general rule. Anyone who routinely walks to the left knows all too well the pitfalls of navigating the rabbit warren of platforms, stairs, pedestrian walkways, escalators and subterranean tunnels that tend to run at right angles to each other over, under and around any number of our nation’s larger railway stations; when someone who’s not so attentive to the ‘keep left’ rule runs around a corner in a mad panic to dash up the stairs and onto the nearest train, the full impact is often borne by the left-keeper’s right arm or shoulder. On the road, it would be called a collision and parties are expected to stop, check for damage and exchange details, but pedestrians don’t even seem to notice when they nearly knock a fellow commuter clear off their feet. Why should road rules and footpath rules be different anyway? Cyclists are expected to keep left in their bike lanes, so it’s just illogical to not apply the same rules to the footpath.
4. Standing on the wrong side of the escalator: it’s annoying and they’re ignorant fools… especially the ones who look back to see exactly what impact they’ve had on the hundreds of commuters banked up behind them, then choose not to move out of the way anyway. Ignoramuses. I know there are loads of tourists and foreign folk in Sydney and they may be used to things happening on the other side in almost every situation, but surely it’s not a huge ask for them to
open their eyes, read the signs or simply observe what everyone else is doing and act accordingly?
5. People who stop moving at the bottom of stairs or escalators: it’s also highly annoying, they’re also ignorant (and very likely stupid) and, at times, it’s just plain dangerous.
6. People looking at phones while walking: it’s not just annoying, it borders on perilous and should be illegal. That is all.
7. People cramming onto public transport before others have gotten off: a particular issue with the afternoon commute only. Oddly enough, in the mornings people seem all too ready to stand aside of train doors and allow existing passengers to alight before boarding (you can always tell the ones who don’t normally take public transport during peak hour – they’re the ones who push their way on board, regardless). In the afternoons, though, it’s a different story altogether. Woe betide anyone who tries to get off a train at any inner city station during the afternoon rush. So fixated are our zombies on getting away from the city as quickly as possible that they’re not about to wait for anyone, or anything. For anyone who tries valiantly to replicate the morning commute’s rules of courtesy during the afternoon commute, it’s a sad and sorry (and slightly embarrassing) state of affairs.
8. Travel tickets / passes that don’t work: it’s fine when it’s the fault of the infrastructure (frequently the case). But at this point I will specifically reference those who insist on leaving said ticket / pass in their wallet and are then surprised when an electronic reader doesn’t penetrate layers of leather, money and masses of other cards to successfully read their pass. Idiots. Lazy idiots.
9. Angry public transport staff: they’re everywhere. Their all-pervading hatred of their job is only exceeded by the utter disdain they display towards everyone around them, without ever acknowledging that they wouldn’t actually have a job were they not surrounded by the scum of the earth who clearly annoy them so very much. Anyone who’s ever caught a train (certainly here in Sydney) will have witnessed something. You get the narky platform announcements – generally when something’s gone wrong which is, of course, when the entire network goes into meltdown, along with all customers and, consequently, all staff. Or you frequently get the narky guard announcements, generally about something fairly basic like someone blocking a door, or feet on seats or moving inside carriages so everyone can get on the train. In most cases you know that the comments are probably kinda of valid, but those making them never seem to know how to control their obvious rage and target their audience. There’s always a word or a reference to something that’s just that little bit too ‘industry jargon’ or technical for the average train user to understand, whereby effectively invalidating the whole announcement. And in the end you know it’s always just so much window-dressing – they’re toothless tigers! They probably don’t even have the authority to do what their announcements make it seem is imminent.
10. Bags (and other personal items) on public transport seats: again, like so many other aspects of the daily commute, just ignorant and uncool. It’s especially ignorant and uncool when the owner of the receptacle knows full well that it’s taking up the only remaining seat and they either still fail to remove it, or they huff and puff and roll eyes when you ask them to move it and/or when you motion to them that your arse will very shortly be on top of it if they don’t put it somewhere else. Shout out to women with over-sized handbags with this one. They’re far and away the worst culprits. No doubt because they’ve spent far too much on the said over-sized handbag and are (perhaps justifiably) paranoid about putting it on the floor of the train… too bad, Princess – don’t bring the f***ing thing out with you if you can’t suck it up!
11. 2 people / 3 seats: human nature is to avoid sitting in the seat immediately next to a compete stranger if there are other seats not immediately next to complete strangers available. Where the available configuration is three seats wide, most will leave a space between them and the person already seated there. Near the start of a bus, tram or train route this generally doesn’t present an issue, but it soon becomes clear to those joining the service later on that the remaining spaces are either virtually impossible to get to, or else are safely reserved for the rest of the journey simply thanks to everyone else’s equal fear and loathing of physical contact with strangers, meaning nobody even tries to reach it. What a waste.
12. Transport hubs with inadequate egress: railway stations / transport interchanges with only one or two escalators that are only two people wide but which allow two eight-car trains packed to capacity to arrive in the same place at the same time – that’s nearly 1,800 people all trying to get out at once. I’m not sure how many other places in the world these exist, but there are certainly a few of them here in Sydney. And let me just say this to you, CityRail, or Transport NSW, or Sydney Trains or whatever you’re called this week: the world’s slowest renovation of Town Hall Station, replete with odd choice of tile colour (gloss grey, anyone?) and shiny orange signage can’t negate the fact that this place is a death trap just waiting for the right opportunity! Mark my words, one day Town Hall Station will become the modern-day equivalent of King’s Cross Station in London… you know, the one where a fire started underneath an escalator from the underground platforms, killing 31 commuters, injuring a hundred and trapping several hundred others back in 1987? No, it’s an observation – not a terrorist threat.
13. Actual people making annoying announcements on modern trains that everyone knows are capable of playing only recorded messages: seriously, why do they bother? Recorded messages, where the words are always the same and the tone and volume (not to mention the voice itself) are always consistent always sound so much better. Then some douche standing by an open door screaming into the mouthpiece of an old telephone handset decides to tell everyone where the train’s going and what they can do at the next station… I’ll tell them what they can do at the next station. Hopefully it involves them leaving the train while I stay on board to complete my journey!
14. As per #13, but with far too much expression in their voice: as if it’s not bad enough that they’ve already ruined the pre-recorded ambience of the average journey, being too flowery and descriptive and saying the whole thing with an obvious smile on their face is ten times worse – a train guard who actually loves what they do! It’s just unpalatable.
15. People sitting on the aisle seat of two seats when nobody is sitting next to them: in fairness, this is likely the legacy of poor public transport design more than anything (the same thing happens in New York and London, but with less impact due to different configuration), but certainly train users here in Sydney seem to be highly sensitive to being trapped on the window seat of a two or three person seat and being unable to get out in time for their stop. It’s either that or, more probably, that Sydneysiders simply have a massive dislike of looking anyone else in the eye, let alone the dreaded horror of actually having to say anything to them (which also assumes they actually could if they needed to, which isn’t always a given). Most people would simply prefer to sit on the outside, forcing someone else to excuse themselves to get past, whereby not having to say anything to anyone when the time comes to make their own move.
16. People handing out flyers: when you walk the streets of almost any major city in the world, it’s a miracle if you get through the experience without someone having thrust something at you. Sadly, it’s generally not the kind of thing you woke up that morning thinking you’d love someone to thrust at you that day. During the morning commute people on inner city footpaths hand out all sorts of shit that I don’t want thrust in my face or at the general vicinity of my hands ever, let alone any time roughly either side of 9am. Even when I approach a polling booth on the day of a state or federal election I ignore the flyers, so I’m unlikely to accept one from some random on the way to work, but they continue to try anyway. Flyers, pamphlets, gym passes (but only if you’re already pretty and/or buff), coffee vouchers, cleaners, painters and handymen touting for business… it’s never anything I actually need or anywhere I’d actually go. They’re just advertising, I get that, but it’s the most offensive form of advertising. I already have enough of that stuff thrust at my eyes when I least expect it throughout the day, I don’t need it when I’m walking along a footpath on my way to or from work. Interestingly, it only tends to happen during morning rush or at lunchtime. Obviously, the response from the afternoon rush is heavily anticipated, so it almost never happens then. It should never happen.
17. Coffee breath, morning breath and/or BO: within the confines of a packed bus, tram or train at some time before 9am, there’s virtually nothing worse to contend with than morning breath, coffee breath, or BO. Sometimes it’s a 2-for-1 combo. Sometimes, if you did something really awful the day before, karma comes back to bite you and you get all three, right in your face! It’s awful. How can people be so lacking in awareness of self and surroundings? Or their own stench? Seriously, it’s disgusting. Go do something about that!
18. Buff corporate wankers with giant oversized gym bags: what are they carrying in those giant bags, anyway? A full cricket set inclusive of pads, bat and three stumps? And why are they all branded Country Road? Of course, many of them are corporate hipsters with big beards and hugely slicked hair, so it’s entirely possible that the entire content of said bags is hair product and combs, so they probably just use the gym for the change rooms and mirrors. How very metrosexual.
After all these years, I think I just came to a critical conclusion: I don’t like people, I loathe the corporate world and I should do a job where I never have to interact with another person again. Either that, or I should work for a brewery, vineyard or small bar. Maybe I should open my own boutique place? Or else, find some way of making ‘mattsoldmanrants’ actually generate me an income. Pretty sure I know which one is more likely to happen first, if at all…