To my Grumpyans who follow me, you will note that I have written about the trials and tribulations of the commute. The people who I have had the pleasure of coming across during my travels to and from my new job, are an interesting and colourful bunch.
The thing is, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, moaning about the commute but it is difficult when I do come across such interesting people. Sometimes I feel like I could be in a BBC wildlife documentary.
Take for instance, the other day. The train was once again severely delayed demonstrating that when it comes to travelling to and from work, it might actually be worth considering the three legged, blind donkey that has an extreme addiction to crack. In terms of reliability, it seems to far outweigh the service provided by my local train network.
Myself and many other commuters eventually catch a train. We are packed in tightly. Fortunately, thanks to a “Take no prisoners” mind-set I was able to grab a seat. I was aware that actually getting off the train at my stop may require some crowd surfing.
Allow me to introduce you to four of my fellow commuters who are unique and special in their own unique and special way.
The man sat across from me looked really angry when he got on the train and sat opposite me. The thing is, his furrowed brow didn’t relax. It was permanently fixed like that and so he looked really angry all the time. Even later on when he let his head rest against the back of his seat, closing his eyes to relax on this relatively smooth train journey, he still looked pissed off. The thing is that as you do, you make eye contact with fellow commuters from time to time. If I hadn’t seen him get on the train, had I been reading and then looked up after he had sat opposite me and made eye contact, I would by default have thought that he was angry with me. Then where would that have left me? I’d have spent the journey thinking that he may have been opposed to the National Geographic magazine I was reading at the time. Or perhaps it was my cap that he took an instant dislike to. Perhaps he had a nasty experience on a train with a man in a cap when he was a child and therefore to sit opposite me has invoked an impulsive rage of anger.
He calls his wife, still looking angry, tells her he is on the way home and asks for a lift but then she obviously told him that she is picking up the kids. “Ah the kids, I forgot,” he said. He tells her not to worry about it and that he’ll see her later. I can’t tell if he is really pissed off about this or not.
I wonder if I’m looking at this wrong. Perhaps he’s just generally disappointed. Disappointed by life! Or maybe it was a freak botox accident?
With furrowed brow he looks to his left and like, me he is probably trying to work out what exactly it is. Unlike him, my face doesn’t give the impression I am looking at them with contempt.
I’m 32. Some would say that is not very old and relatively speaking, it isn’t. But as I look at this young person sat looking out of the window, I see what it’s wearing, which is no doubt ‘fashionable’, and I can’t help but think it looks, well, weird and that by default makes me think that I must be getting old.
It’s a female, I think. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s a female. She’s got big trainer type boot things on with brightly patterned tights, a denim skirt then a jacket which is puffy, plastic and purple/pink in colour. She has long hair in places whereas in other places on her head it looks like she’s been attacked with a hedge trimmer. Big thick rimmed glasses sit on her little round face and behind the lenses, she has big wide eyes. With her wide eyes staring out of the window with occasional darts around the surrounding area, she looks like a startled owl. A trendy, Indie kind of startled owl. But then it’s not surprising. She’s got the Grumpy Young bloke trying to work out what it is and Colin Angryman sat next to her.
On the other side of the aisle is a man who is looking at a bill from his energy supplier. On this packed train he decides to give them a call.
Two things cross my mind. Firstly, when he gets through to the operative, surely he will need to disclose some personal information in line with the data protection act. However, discussing the finer details of his account and giving his details over the phone in front of all of these strangers kind of negates the point of the intended security check.
Secondly, he didn’t have much foresight because he made the call as we were just leaving New Street Station and we will very shortly be going through a very long tunnel. He will lose signal. So I just sit and watch waiting for the inevitable.
We enter the tunnel and through the windows, the blackness is evidence that we are shooting through one of the many arteries that carry the flow of commuters below the city streets of Birmingham.
Sure enough our bill analysing friend is on hold and in a queue to get through to speak to someone. I know this because he has his phone speaker quite loud. I can just make out the standard automated message that many of us hate listening to. And then, as I predicted, the signal is lost. Our bill analysing friend sat there looking at his phone and sighed whilst shaking his head. It was one of those disappointed sighs as if to be blaming something else for this situation. He must therefore have either blamed his phone, his network provider or his energy supplier for cutting him off. Either way, this was not as a result of his lack of foresight and consideration of the tunnel we were fast approaching. In my mind, I have decided he is from a shallow gene pool and an idiot.
Behind him, without the benefit of a seat was a man. A bald brother. A bald brother with a pair of headphones that were trendy in the 80’s. Listening to some music which I could also faintly make out blearing from his archaic headphones. It sounded like some kind of modern pop rubbish. Something by Katie Perry or something else similar and completely unoriginal.
I’m sure you, like me have listened to music in a public place before, on your walkman, cd discman, minidisc player or mp3 device. I’m sure that there have been times when you have listened to a tune that you absolutely loved. You would love to just bust some shapes, thrust those hips, throw your legs around like an over zealous Power Ranger but you don’t because you are in a public place and you have decorum. Perhaps a slight nod of the head with the beat, a foot tap or even a little tap of the finger is enough to physically blend with the tune you are loving in that moment and yet not draw any unwanted attention to yourself.
But not our bald headphoned brother here. He decides to lip synch with the song. Not modest lip synching that could be overlooked. No, this resembled some lip synching that wouldn’t look out of place in a corrupt Eurovision entry!
Even Milli Vanilli would give this guy Kudos. The only thing missing really was the air grabbing move that so many singers utilise in this day and age. That and some overly energetic backing dancers.
He was really going for it. His head was rocking, he would start jigging about and as for the sustained long vocal notes that you tend to get in all of these pop songs these days, he really went for it, even closing his eyes. Even with the vocal trills that he was listening to, he would do that little jaw wiggle thing as if he was actually singing the various notes.
I looked around to see if there were any other passengers who were witnessing this. Perhaps together we could share this moment of comedy. We could make eye contact and without words say to each other, “What is he doing?” But despite scouring the many heads and faces that made up the carriage it appeared to be only me who was witnessing this performance. Oh, apart from the person who was stood next to him and who was obviously witnessing it in their periphery as they looked uncomfortable and started to edge away slightly.
At the end of the song, he pulled on his headphone cable; the other end was attached to his phone; he glanced at his phone; pressed a button and then the whole rendition started again.
So there you have it. One journey home leading this grumpy mind to contemplate subject matters at the forefront of the very building blocks of western society in the twenty first century such as; Anger, Disappointment, Youth Fashions, Owls, the Data Protection Act, Foresight and the awkwardness of over exuberant miming on public transport.
What’s been the strangest thing you’ve witnessed on public transport?