22 August, 2010

Bus Etiquette, Tube Trauma and Tram Panic

I have no problem with using public transport. I enjoy it in fact. I love walking to the tram stop. I love waiting at the bus stop. I love sitting on the train staring out the window in what I hope is an endearing rather than gormless manner. And most of all, I love the fact I can go anywhere in Sheffield all day long for a mere £3. Thank you Dayrider.

What I do not love is the sheer panic that fills me every time I have to find a seat without falling over, every time I have to show my pass without taking ages and causing tuts from the fat huffing and puffing man next to me, every time I have a full half hour conversation loudly on my phone before realising yes I’m on public transport and yes 67% of Sheffield and probably some of my colleagues now know what I did last night. Public transport is an absolute minefield of social decorum and an embarrassing episode just waiting to pounce on you and your Metro.

So during my years as an old-school tram-hopper, London tube runner and sporadic bus frequenter I have picked up a few tips to help us through the daunting obstacle course of what I like to call Bus Etiquette*.

Rule Number One: know your hazard spots.

Get your ticket ready (like really ready, don’t just ‘know where it is’)
I learnt this lesson again last week when I hastily tried to achieve my tram pass from my purse on One Of Those Days and ended up spilling shrapnel all down the carriage**, catching oversized ring on jacket (that’ll teach me), said ring’s stone goes flying, scratching nearest window. Story ended with me a flustered and highly uncool mess, while everyone else breathed a sigh of relief that today it hadn’t been them.

Seat Nav’
If you’re fortunate enough for there to be spare seating and therefore a reduced chance of standing the whole way, swaying and jerking around like a post-crawl pre-walking tot, negotiate how you’re going to get to your seat the instant you set foot on the tram/bus/train. If you find yourself casually meandering towards an available seat, there is quantitative evidence that before you know it the carrier of choice is likely to have taken off again, seeing that you’re unhappily jolted into the lap of an appalled Grandma/over-excited middle aged man. Each of these has happened to me on more than one occasion.

Know your routes and never get cocky
Do not assume that the Northern Line at 10pm on Sunday is going to be the same as the Circle Line at noon on Saturday lunchtime. It is not. Not so long ago I was ‘expertly’ changing at Victoria on a (worse for wear) Sunday morning and the ease of my trek up to this point had made me indeed cocky, despite the swarming masses now surrounding me. Before I knew it, amongst a flock of Busy Sweaty People, I had nonchalantly swung my massive bag through the tube doors before me, ready to skip on after it, only for the tube doors to close with my bag inside it. So there’s me on the platform clinging on to the strap, while an army of people tried fruitlessly to help me yank the bag back through a 0.5mm gap. After a panicked 10 seconds, an announcement was made on my behalf (Die), the tube doors were re-opened, my bag came swinging back through, some clapped, some scowled at me for delaying them by a full a half minute. I, needless to say, waited for the next tube and thanked Victoria Beckham for over-sized sunglasses.

Finally, never assume you are safe!
Even when you have mastered the ticket/seat/route-knowledge fandango, there are still the unforeseen terrors of transport that love to come and tickle you just when you’ve got comfy. Just the other day, I was contentedly learning how Cheryl really feels about her divorce from Ashley, when the Crazy Singing Woman on my tram started asking me (why meeeee) very loudly and in soprano if I was happy and feeling blessed by the lord. Well, despite the fact I was actually feeling pretty damn jammy, I didn’t fancy sharing this with the population of my carriage. So I sort of half-smiled, half-cringed, then pretended I couldn’t hear her further godly interrogation by staring intently at Ashley Cole’s slutty new bit on the page before me, turning up my ipod for good measure and basically stamping myself with MOODY BITCH in big red letters. I lost a few stranger-friends in that moment. And probably God’s love.

But until I stop loving the free-spiritedness of public transport or get given a pink Audi TT (pinning a photograph of this next to my desk has bizarrely not caused one to materialise), I will continue to report on my travelling fandango’s and what to watch out for when boarding the 724 to Heathrow or making the most of your Young Person discount.

*Bus Etiquette can be applied to any mode of transport that involves sharing with 2 or more strangers NB: I would hope this automatically rules out your car.
** I never got the shrapnel back, because it so happened the Tram Tramp picked it up for me that day.

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