"We will shortly be arriving at Tunbridge Wells. Please mind the gap between your dwindling disposable income and your ludicrous commuting costs"
This was not the message that welcomed me for the first time from the tannoy at Tunbridge Wells station, but it wouldn't have seemed the least bit out of place. This is not the subject of this blog. The subject of this blog is this.
I believe there is an art, or rather a knack, to commuting.
The knack of commuting is this - explore, understand and then dominate your environment. I begin first by becoming "mates" with the manager of the station café. He is important. He is an ally. Once on my side, he will work hard for me. My morning coffee is big league, and a polite and regular exchange of manly chat with this pivotal character will ensure that he will eventually spot me upon entry to the café, and therefore prioritise (to the annoyance of the other commuters) my morning preference. With coffee in hand, and some cracking male football banter roundly exchanged, it's a quick leap across the platform onto the 7.40.
Time now for the hunt for a seat, or more importantly, a bay...
With a 1 hour commute, the seating selection is crucial, and can make or break the man, and the journey. Quick and professional consideration is required. I now traverse the vehicle like a predator until a full unoccupied bay is discovered. This both offers choice of seat (window) and direction (facing – the gentleman’s choice).
I am now in a position of great power. I now “own a bay”.
The power that this gambit exudes should not be overlooked. In this simple formation I can adopt a number of dominating postures and territorial looks; enough to easily dissuade the weaker entrants to the train as we hit High Brooms, and then of course Tonbridge, where all hell will break loose in a scramble for miniscule commuting space.
From this point forward the middle game is over, and with all available square footage occupied it could be easy, by this time, to find myself entirely discombobulated. That would be the case had I not exerted my physical presence earlier in the game, which I duly did, and not without some authority.
For example, I had already commanded a larger share of the available footwell space, and my important protracted elbow room for broadsheet reading was procured prior to the arrival of the final barrage of largely unwelcome Chislehurst commuters.
And so, as the train approaches London Bridge there is some feeling of victory. I proceed to leave the train, apologising profusely as I tread on the toes of Englishmen, however I can say with proud conviction that there may come a day when all hope is lost, when humankind must turn the final page, and man is forced to go quietly into the night.
But it will not be this day.