Strangers on a Train

Commuting is mostly being in a crowded space with some strangers. Is it any wonder I try to make my commute nicer by giving names to the people I commute with?

Leo’s Mum and her three children. Leo’s Mum has three children but I only know the name of one – Leo – because he’s the naughty one. “Leo, don’t annoy that lady”, “Leo, sit down”, “Leo, be quiet” – these are familiar refrains on my journey. I assume the other two children have names and do things wrong sometimes, but poor Leo seems to get the brunt of his mother’s attention.

Anna, Anna’s Dad (and sometimes Anna’s Mum). Anna’s Dad takes her to school most mornings. Anna is obsessed by cats. She has several hairbands with cat ears on them. Anna’s Dad makes her watch for the train coming into the platform and stand behind the yellow line when it arrives. Anna’s Dad doesn’t let Anna watch cat videos on youtube during the commute. Anna’s Mum does.

Old/Young Dad. Old/Young Dad knows Anna’s Dad and sometimes they talk about football while they’re waiting for the train. Old/Young Dad commutes with his toddler who gets very excited about the train. (“Train Daddy! Train!”) Old/Young Dad has grey hair but looks very young. I can’t tell if he’s dyed his hair grey or if he’s just unhappily gone grey early.

Charity Man. I know nothing about him except he gets off at the station where I get on and I noticed him because he has very curly hair. I would have called him Curly Hair Man except one day he was carrying a magazine called something like “Fundraiser Weekly”, so from then on he was Charity Man.

Aging Rock Star. Another man who gets off at my station as I’m getting on. He’s always dressed in black and his hair is an unnatural shade of black for the age his face is telling me he is. He might be one of the Rolling Stones’ younger brothers. Or he might never had been in a band. But he looks like he should have been.

High Heel Finance Woman. She’s not the only woman on my train who wears high heels. She’s also probably not the only woman on the train working in finance. However I do know she gets on the bus at the stop after mine and is sometimes on my train of an evening. She always wears high heels and once I saw her carrying a training manual with the title of “financing” on it. So I combined the only two facts I knew about her to name her.

Pushy Woman. When I miss my usual train and get the late train, I usually end up in the same carriage as Pushy Woman. Pushy Woman annoys me greatly. She turns up on the platform just as the train arrives. Those of us already on the platform make a space around the doors so people can get off the train (the faster they get off, the sooner we can get on) but she stands directly in the path of people getting off the train, slowing the whole process down, and when the last few people are getting off, she pushes past them, past those of us who were already waiting by the doors, and onto the train to get a seat and read her (being judgy here) crap romantic fiction. People mutter at her every day, but this is Britain, so no-one has ever said anything out loud. I honestly don’t think it would make a difference if we did. She has her own mission and the rest of us are just dust in her wake.

Reefer Man. OK there is no one single Reefer Man. But quite often in the evening there is someone in my carriage who smells VERY STRONGLY of marijuana. It’s not a pleasant smell, especially in a crowded train. Sometimes Reefer Man is on my train in the morning. Man, are you seriously are going to work smelling like that?

80s Hits Woman. I haven’t seen her for a while so she must have moved, but on her commute she used to listen to 80s hits on a Walkman (yes, on a cassette!). She also had those headphones that leak noise really badly so if you were sat near her you could (if you wanted) sing along to Bonnie Tyler “Holding out for a Hero” or Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone” or Cyndi Lauper “Girls just wanna have fun”.

Jabbery Woman. She has also moved. But she used to provide a constant stream of commentary on the journey to her toddler. It must be a thing that if you talk more to your child, they will develop language skills faster. But only if they can get a word in. She didn’t provide much opportunity for her child to speak at all.

Do you have any people on your commute who you’ve given code names to?

What would your commuting code name be?


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