A man sneezes into a woman’s face and, instead of apologising, buries his head back in his book, ignoring her murderous stare. A bawling child cries for more chocolate at a decibel level that makes my kidneys plait a noose out of my intestines and prepare to step off a chair. And a selfish boy sits on the floor taking the space of five people with his splayed out legs and fucking book bag. Bet none of the books in that fucking book bag are about common decency. Bet there aren’t any shittwatting books in it at all.
Where am I? No, not an enchanted forest or a fairy tale land where dreams really do come true but on the 7.40am South West train to London Waterloo, where talking squirrels get slowly suffocated to death by the crowd and dreams go a weird, dehydrated sort of grey.
I hate this place more than any other place in the world and I’m throwing Jimmy Savile’s house and abattoirs into the mix for comparison here. Because not only do I basically have to crowbar my nose out of someone’s armpit twice a day, every day for the foreseeable future, but I’m having to pay escalating ticket prices to do it. Prices that mop up a quarter of my wages after tax. It’s not like we can just hop on another train line and chuckle at the idiots using the other system, their faces pressed against the train window in an effort to siphon the last bit of air that might exist between the molecules of the glass. No, our train system has been monopolised, and us as train commuters are on our knees, looking tearfully up at the shareholders while they unzip their fly and whisper ominously, “While you’re down there…”
Because, according to BBC News, that’s where 90% of the operating profits are actually going – straight into the pockets of overfed shareholders. You would have thought that after a series of hikes totalling over 30% in the last three years they’d have enough for even the priciest bottle of orphan’s tears or whatever it is they drink, but is enough ever really enough? Look around, this gaping void between rich and poor is growing wider and soon it’ll swallow all us oiks up, burping out a couple of our astonished hats for good measure.
Signal failures on a daily basis, overcrowding, general delays and poor carriage maintenance are one thing (or rather four things) but our continuing tolerance of it is quite another. Why are we putting up with this? Brazil didn’t. Hundreds of people took to the streets last year after a 9% rise in bus ticket prices, from 2.75 reais to 3 reais. That’s the equivalent of a rise from 70p to 80p in the UK. Thanks to the uproar created by the people, the government reversed the increase.
Yesterday, after a series of delays that left me late for work despite leaving the house half an hour earlier than normal, being crammed into yet another armpit and losing my iPod during the journey, I arrived at the office semi-combusted from an internal and wholly impotent sense of fury. I was incensed and expressed my disapproval in a very British manner by pursing my lips and inaudibly muttering “shitfuck” at regular intervals. I searched for protests and demonstrations about the shoddy, overpriced travel systems in London and couldn’t find a thing.
In fact, my online Google search for justice unearthed a snowstorm of shitty comments from people who have the luxury of not having to use the trains for work. Comments such as ‘Those who use the trains should pay for it not the general taxpayer who can not even afford to use it’. Oh, right, yes that’s fine because I don’t currently pay tax. As a rail user, I’m completely exempt from all forms of payment into the system. In fact, when I go into a shop I only need to pull out my monthly railcard for all the shop attendants to come running at me from every corner and start piling the finest silks and myrrh into my smug, over-laden shopping basket.
What planet do you live on? It’s the same god-forsaken rock we’re all currently clinging to, right? Because sometimes, I’m just not sure.