A large part of my job entails travelling by public transport.
Mornings and nights are topped and tailed standing around on draughty railway platforms, awaiting ageing rolling stock to lumber into view - and then it’s an all-in bun fight as tired commuters scrap for space and seats to make their journey that little bit more bearable.
Anyone else in the same boat (or should that be train?) will know that when it’s dark, cold and wet and you’re standing around waiting for a piece of machinery that’s been delayed by a few leaves, when you were warm and tucked up in bed about half an hour or so previously, it’s hard to find enthusiasm of any sort at that time of the day.
The days of social interaction are long gone. We all stand around, not making eye contact with fellow passengers, gazing blankly into our phone screens, heads bowed, a swiping finger the only sign of movement from the zombie-like hordes.
Then we all get on the train, stick a bag next to us to save a seat and “spread out” and contine staring at our phones, until we all shuffle off again at the other end and go our separate ways.
Same time again tomorrow, and repeat five days a week.
What happened to the good old days of people actually sitting down and talking to each other?
When a fellow passenger (generally not someone making the same daily grind journey) does start chatting, it becomes a minor irritation, rather than a delight.
I don’t really care about the weather, the fact that your Uncle Ted lives in Conisbrough (which is the next station) or what happened in EastEnders last night, thanks.
I just want to sit quietly and passively looking out of the mud-smeared window. Or at my phone, understand, sunshine?
However, if you are really lucky, you can look forward to those who still use their phones to make calls (I know, a rarity these days in a world of texting, Tindering, Instagraming and Facebooking).
“I’m on the train.....what.....can’t really hear you.....I said I’m on the train.....hang on....you’re breaking up.....what....what? Hello, can you hear me?”
Oh yes. We all love hearing about what you’re having for tea, what treatment you’re getting from the doctor for your minor ailments and what you’ll be watching on telly later.
Don’t get me wrong, every now and again, you can have a pleasant and suprising chat with someone as you chug homeward bound (I once sat opposite Prefab Sprout singer Paddy McAloon on a Newcastle bound express, although he didn’t say a great deal) and Darling Buds Of May actor Phillip Franks was good company on a service from Sheffield once, him sparking up the chatter, rather than me.
General train etiquette? Speak only when you’re spoken to.