The joy of frequent travel……
Those of you who frequent this site (my thanks!) will know that I am regular “commuter” between Crewe and the Smoke. On a weekly basis I find myself traveling on a Virgin Pendolino, in First Class, and regularly bemoaning the failings of the seat reservation system, the inconsistency of the number of sausages on my toastie, and the bloody awful wi-fi.
But, after today, I would perhaps better describe myself as a frequent traveler. For today I have experienced what real “commuting” is like.
For reasons too unfathomable to mention here, my journey today is going like this: Crewe to Birmingham New Street, to Walsall, to Birmingham New Street, to Euston. Only this last leg is on a sleek and glossy Virgin Pendolino. The others were on London Midland commuter trains.
Now, my experience was not bad. All trains left and arrived on time and I had a seat. So, I have in no way suffered the daily hardships of those poor souls who are “reliant” on Southern Rail to get them to work every day.
But, my experience was sufficient to convince me that I am glad that I am not a regular commuter.
The trains were clean and not too busy. Unlike a Virgin Voyager, the overhead luggage bins were big enough to actually accommodate luggage. And the aisle was very wide, presumably to accommodate standing room at busier times.
But, the people were depressing. That said, they were well prepared. And certainly better prepared than yours truly who just assumed that an at-seat drinks and food service was the norm. So, while I sat there listening to my stomach rumbling and wishing that I’d taken time to grab a bottle of water before leaving home, the train carriage I found myself in resembled a mobile picnic site.
Everyone but me was enjoying a carry out from Costa or a thermos of tea. The flask option would point at an old-hander who had experienced regular bouts of unreliability and was prepared for the long haul. And many a Morrisons carrier bag (Waitrose customers don’t commute….) spilled forth its culinary delights of a breakfast cereal bar, a packet of Digestives (the man with the thermos) and the odd homemade cheese sandwich wrapped in tinfoil. And, my tummy rumbled on and on.
The atmosphere of a mobile camp/refugee site was further added to by the fact that everyone on the train was damp. It had been raining hard outside and as a consequence the carriage was strewn with dripping umbrellas of various sizes and colour schemes, while many an individual was sporting a sodden cagoule or raincoat – why oh why is North Face not the brand of choice for your average commuter?
As it was quite warm in the train, most people were gently steaming and the inside of the windows began to blur with condensation. And, there was a general smell of damp dog mixed with damp cheese sandwiches permeating the atmosphere. Which is not a good smell.
And the people were depressed. Many were trying to sleep. Some were actually reading. I mean real books and newspapers. I quickly surmised that this was due to the lack of wi-fi, which meant that we were traveling in a time machine circa 1974, before technology; even before the invention of the Sony Walkman or the iPod.
No one had anything to do. No laptops or tablets and no phone signal. There was literally nothing to do but read or sleep. Thank God that people were not resorting to conversation and social interaction, at least. Small mercies. Many of those who slept were making noises which, frankly, should only ever be heard within the walls of their own spare room. And, there was far too much drooling and dribbling for my liking.
And the journey was slow. We stopped everywhere. And everywhere we stopped was nowhere. Or, nowhere that you would want to stop in, at least. There were places that even this Midland-born had never heard of and have already forgotten. And, because the train was slow, things that were normally a blur on my way down to London, were suddenly visible to me and in great detail. What some people do in their back gardens is disgusting. It was an endless onslaught of graffiti and graveyards of abandoned trains from a bygone era, and factory workers grabbing a cheeky ciggie sheltered under a piece of corrugated iron. I am glad to be back on board a Virgin Pendolino.
Mr Branson, I take it all back. And, commuting is definitely not my bag.
Entry filed under: middleman.