Wednesday 02 Jan, 2008 - 15:30pm | 3
As 2008 begins, and the first day of commuting misfires with overrunning
engineering works, I've compiled my list of the most annoying attributes of, or
the reasons to avoid using, public transport.
- Mental Health Patients
You won't find these in your car, so
the number one reason to avoid public transport is having one of the UK's
early released mental health patients in the same
carriage as you. You know
they've been left out early and are not taking medication as they're bare foot wearing sandals in December so there is no hiding
their freakish yeti feet as they pace the carriage in a confused circle, scratching their beard. What are they going to do next, make a lunge for someone
with a knife?
When the "Mission Impossible" ringtone
goes off people don't turn heads to look in admiration at the cool guy. If they turn around at
all it's to look at the "knob head" who needs a ringtone to validate their personality. And
of course, it isn't limited to "Mission
Impossible", there's a whole industry built around downloading
ringtones, some, like the crazy frog, specifically designed to be annoying.
A 2007 research paper by the World Health Organisation into the long term
ill effects of noise exposure suggested 3% of deaths from coronary heart disease
were caused by chronic noise exposure. I wonder how many of these were on
the overland to Waterloo? For 2008 put in on vibrate, your ringtone won't really be "the envy of your mates" as
the advertising might suggest.
- iPods / MP3's
Played too loudly and you can overhear this awful
tinny sound. It's just more noise adding to the coronary heart disease
statistics. You can't hear a tune. The noise however, becomes even more aggravating if the person
wearing the iPod starts "getting on down" to the music by nodding
their head or tapping their foot - even more so if they're middle aged.
- The smell of a McDonalds
Number four in the list is the
smell pervading the carriage as someone sits there and horses
down a happy meal while you suffocate with the stink. You have to switch to
breathing through the mouth. At times like this you would gladly turn into a 19th Century
dandy or Russell Brand look-alike and produce, with a flourish, a scented kerchief from your
sleeve to wave under your nose. This would also insulate you from the
smell of clothes left to dry in a wet bundle, body odour, Lynx or someone's
silent CO2 emission.
- It's just too crowded
Why do some people still insist on reading their
newspaper when you're literally crushed together and can't move. They will
still try to turn the pages literally within a half inch or less of your
- Mobile Phones
appearance in my list of reasons to avoid public transport and use your
car. I'm not sure which is worse, sitting in ear shot of someone going on
and on in short story long mode or someone loudly soliloquising on their
mobile as if the carriage were their theatre. They talk so they can be
overheard. It doesn't matter who's on the other side, this is about the
speaker and the other commuters in the carriage. It's as if they want to
"be the envy of the other commuters".
- People talking in the morning
It shouldn't be allowed. In the
morning we want to sit in silence with our own thoughts and not be irritated
by any early morning chatter, particularly when combined with laughter. And
have you noticed, those talking seem
to be doing so unnecessarily loudly?
- Overrunning engineering works
The first working day of 2008
backfires as overrunning engineering works close Liverpool Street station
and lead to two hour delays on a main England to Scotland route. We're
advised the work should have been completed. Very helpful! Meanwhile fares
are due to increase by another 10%
- Undertaking on the escalators
We're all familiar
with road rage, but in 2007 I was one bit lip away from being involved in the first
incidence of escalator rage. We all know, other than the occasional
gaggle of tourists, that there are two lanes on the escalator. On the right
you stand, on the left you hurry by. But even this isn't quick enough for some. A
gap in the slow lane and someone will dart out form behind you, overtake and
push back in in front, even though you're jogging down the
- Public Nose picking
As you watch in unbelief, out in public, surrounded by other people,
and without a tissue or handkerchief in sight they'll start to pick their
nose. Don't they realise where they are? Don't they realise they're out in
public? You worry. What are they going to do next? Wipe it off the seat,
flick it somewhere. Ugh!.
- Lack of spatial awareness
This is particularly for those who
wear bulky bags or backpacks on their backs and still obliviously turn in a
confined space so the bag knocks into everyone. It's also for those who seem
determined to obstruct the exit or entrance or who form a jostling human
barricade to block your exit from the train onto the platform. They get on
before you have time to get off, they shout out "can you move down
please" even though people are stuffed in as it is.....
- Slamming carriage doors
Why do some people board the train on
the last carriage and then proceed to walk through all the carriages,
slamming the doors until they get to the first carriage. This is as
confusing for me as those who take five to ten minutes to check in at an
- Fast Trains
Whenever I do get one of these it's overtaken by
the slow train and seems to crawl along at 5miles an hour, periodically
stopping for no apparent reason. Invariably you'll be late.
- Platform announcements
These are either inaudible or the
speakers are too inarticulate to understand. It isn't just a consequence of
a multi-cultural society where English isn't the first spoken language. This
is a muffled environment carefully contrived to confound
passengers. It's a mixture of old tannoy equipment, silence, and a careful
recruitment strategy which seems to favour non English speaking candidates.
On the Cork Dublin train recently I became very confused, place names like Charleville
were suddenly transformed into place names within the Golden Triangle.
I didn't know where I was.
- Guys crossing their legs
On the tube there just isn't enough room.
This is of course limited to the ungainly, men only leg cross, where the
ankle rests on the thigh. Clearly the dirty sole of their shoe or boot is
going to graze the leg of the person beside them - but they're completely oblivious to
this. They're too busy checking out their own reflection in the window
Do you really want to do this for another year?