From time to time, my day job has me walking past my car and taking a seat on another german-built vehicle, but one with 2,080bhp and 280 seats. I’ll then sit there for an hour or so, gazing out of the window with absolutely no involvement in the driving process, before bailing out at Stratford in favour of a horribly cramped version of the same thing that’ll carry me underneath our nation’s capital.
Yep, when not working from home, I’m a commuter, and I’m just about to become even more of one. Pretty soon, several days a week, the train will take me not just into London but out the other side, too. But hey, it’s not so bad. Time away from the driver’s seat gives me freedom to ponder… about how great it is to be behind the wheel.
By 08:20 AM, my Siemens-built Class 360 is usually travelling at between 90 and 100mph as it sweeps past the A12 between Witham and Chelmsford. On that stretch of road, at that time in the morning, the cars and lorries that are headed the same direction as me are frequently motionless. Sometimes it’s because of the sheer weight of traffic you get when everybody wants to be in the same place at the same time. Sometimes it’s because — through accident, incident or breakdown — one or more of the thousands of vehicles that share the road have abruptly stopped moving.
From my standard class seat, I peer down on these poor souls with some smugness and then get back to flicking through Twitter. The motorist’s trials and tribulations cease to matter. Yes, there might be a delay, shit happens. But it somehow doesn’t matter. When you’re held up in traffic on your way into work, you get impatient and start to try and out-smart the road. Do you switch into the other, marginally freer-flowing lane, or sit tight because this lane will start moving any minute now. And then, when the obstacle clears, your speed begins to creep up a notch. You want to make up for lost time. Blood pressure rises, and with it, stress.
Alternatively, on the train, a phone call to work can assuage your guilt, and if the on-board Wi-Fi is working (it does, from time to time), you can get a bit of work done before even reaching the office. Later on, if you take the Intercity service home after work, you can head to the buffet coach and pay through the nose for a beer that you’d usually avoid if there was any alternative brand available. I’ve not done that, but when my train home was once delayed for four hours, I did claim a free cup of coffee.
By train you say?
The best thing about commuting by train, though, is that your car gets to relax, blissfully unaware of the horrors of rush-hour roads. It can dream about the next time you take it by the scruff of the neck and thrust it along a favourite country lane. And your relationship with your car can only be improved by knowing that every journey is a pleasure trip, not merely a means of getting to work.
In this respect, I count myself as one of the lucky ones. My new job will cost an absolute fortune on train travel, but considerably less than the equivalent daily journey by car. And I get to gawp in wonderment at the rich variety of life forms that surround me. There’s always somebody laughing uncontrollably, there’s always somebody yelling the worlds least consequential conversation into a phone for the entire journey, and the inevitable odor-monster is usually on hand to complete the public transport stereotype catalogue.
On the debit side of the whole shooting match, I’m going to have to take a break from Hooniverse, and I’m not sure when, or even if, I’ll be back. Soon, hopefully — I’ll miss having an outlet for random thoughts I’ve been struck by and managed to spin out into a story that one or more of you have enjoyed. Thanks so much to all you who invest your time in reading my stuff. For those who are into such things, my Twitter handle is @RoadworkUK.
Meanwhile, new, improved Hooniverse genuinely is baked to its best ever recipe. Over the months ahead, I’ll enjoy tucking into it from the comfort of the comments section.
(All images copyright Chris Haining, who’s probably on a train right now)
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