Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Travelling Diaries 2: Trains

The second of Tim MacBain's 'Travelling Diaries'. See, also, Travelling Diaries 1: Cars

Trains are funny places. Or, more accurately, the people that travel on them are funny. I include myself in that description; I am so concerned that I am being perceived as grumpy and/or unconcerned that I go around with a perpetual grin on my face, rather like a lanky Cheshire Cat. That said, during my general travellings to various universities, I have encountered some weird and wonderful characters.

1. The London Commuter

Usually aged between 35-55, this person is often in a rather nice suit, and evidently holds down a solid, well-paying job in the city. There are two hilarious traits to this type of person; the first is the ritual that they follow once they have got on the train. They remove their bag from their shoulder/back, place it on the chair, and then remove their coat. The table in front of them then goes down, and on it is placed, from the bag, the work that they will be doing over the course of the journey. Finally, the bag is placed in the overheard storage space at a perfect 90° angle to the wall of the train. What makes this most amusing is the time it takes (well over four minutes), the amount of people who are blocked from walking through the train due to their faffing (at least three) and the incoherent sounds they make, from the mutterings as the train work is decided to the dramatic sigh as they are asked to get out of the way for the umpteenth time. The second source of hilarity is what happens when they sit down; they get out a portable music player of some description from their inner suit pocket. This is not only a sublime juxtaposition of new and (relatively) old, but also it is enormously entertaining to watch the look of sheer bewilderment spreading across their face as they try and work this piece of ‘new-fangled technology’, as I heard one person say.

2. The Compulsive Chatterer

This type is the person who talks constantly to those around them, engaging in needless, and often inane and irrelevant, conversation. When my parents and I were going up to York, we got on the train and, as it was London bound, sat across from someone, for there was no space to sit as a unit by ourselves. We then got bombarded with an extremely detailed and rambling account of this person’s difficulties getting home the night before due to the problems with the trains. As fascinating as this was, at 7:00am on Wednesday morning in Half Term I did not want to hear this epic chronicle. Please, if you find yourself to be this type of person, I have absolutely no problem with you being friendly, and in fact welcome it, but please don’t greet me like I’m a long-lost sibling who needs to be filled in on your life story.

3. The Lovers

I have little problem with the P.D.A. (Public Display of Affection). Although it serves as a crucifying reminder that I am haplessly alone (big ‘AAAAAAHHHH’ please), I do understand that couples do wish to show their fondness for one another, and that sometimes these instances will be in public. However, I have encountered some people (You know who you are!) who have taken the P.D.A. to a whole new level, even on trains. I once sat behind a couple who were, to be quite frank, all over each other. They sounded (no hint of irony here) French, and my GOODNESS they were into each other. My abiding memory of the journey is the sludge-gulping noise they made when they kissed; I think I’m scarred for life…

Watch for these people, folks. They are hilarious or astounding, and people-spotting on trains always makes the time pass faster. Even if they are scared of your Cheshire Cat impression…


  1. I agree with pretty much everything in this article, it made me laugh :) the other people that I hate on trains are grumpy train guards though, they just make your life difficult.
    Great article! :)

  2. I get a train twice every day and I have seen all of these people, but I never really thought about it so much


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