How to be an Adult: Commuting
In transport with the public
Commutes come in two main types; paid and unpaid. Which type you have will determine in which way you don’t enjoy it.
Paid commuters are the easiest to spot, as they are the ones spending their journey aggressively avoiding eye contact with other organic life-forms. This is because their Blackberry just went ping! for the nineteenth time since breakfast, which almost certainly means something dreadful like Company 72B1 just lost a 7 of their 0.18 over a 344%.
Sigh. That’s going to affect the graph, isn’t it.
Meanwhile, it is much more likely that you will be one of the large majority of commuters who are unpaid to transfer your mass from your home chair to your office chair, a fact which will invalidate any potential to enjoy the journey for you. You do work to earn money. You earn money to have fun. Commuting, however, is just a weird, repetitious interruption in between. While it enables both parts of your life, it is neither. You’re not earning money. You’re certainly not having fun. You’re just being shot through space at great speeds in an unpleasant metal shape. For free.
This is why you should generally try to join in with the great collective delusion that the whole experience is not happening. Look around you, the great mass of sleepless, displaced people pointing their tired little faces at paper or electronic screens, sleeping, dreaming, and ignoring completely that they’re on a journey from their warm, comfy bed and nice dog called Binkles, towards a 12th-storey, brightly-lit desk next to fucking Darren.
So, plug in. Rejoin the Matrix. Here are some of the most popular, well-established options to join them in the Great Distraction:
Option 1: Read a Newspaper
Catching up with all of the planet’s adventures since the previous day is a popular past-time, and will help you feel involved in the great big drama of your life on Planet Earth.
Of course, while some newspapers contain more of this ‘news’ than others, the easiest and cheapest way to indulge as a commuter is to read the free newspapers which are distributed outside underground stations in major cities.
However, you should remember that these are generally rushed into existence by over-worked, underpaid writers throughout the night, and that the words in them only came out of a tired head about 4 hours before. Indeed, the best indicator of the news’ age is how much of it comes off on your hands. If all of it comes off, it means the ‘news’ is so new that it probably hasn’t finished happening yet, and you could still get involved in the outcome if you hurry.
Pros: “Staying informed” will allow you to “have opinions,” which you can often pretend are your own at dinner parties.
Cons: “Staying informed” will make you think the world is a terrifying, confusing, and unfathomably complicated place, even though your day-to-day life could be summarised as backwards, forwards, sitting down.
Look! Something happened! Someone said something! It’s chaos out there!
The kind of thing that happens somewhere else
Option 2: Read a Book
Books are made of dead trees and thoughts, and come in two main types:
1.) Non-fiction books, which are most popular with people who want to get smarter on the way to their job. This is normally so they can one day leave that job, and get a better one. These books are written by men and women with beards, and are called things like Fish! The Birds That Swim!, or, Hitler! Did He Eat Sausages?
2.) Fiction books, meanwhile, are mostly read by people who want to go on a fantastical mental journey, because their realistic physical journey is so incredibly lacking in fun. Indeed, some people’s physical journeys are so tediously real that the books they need to get through them must be absurdly fantastical to compensate.
These are called ‘guilty pleasure books’ or ‘not very good books,’ depending on whether you read them. Currently, they remain most socially acceptable to read on public transport when purchased with a public transport-friendly cover jacket. Luckily, whether it’s a popular children’s story or a popular erotic novel, there will be an alternative cover available featuring a moody, black-and-white image of an inanimate object. As long as it has a monotone picture of a scarf, it is socially acceptable to be an overgrown child or horny dimwit on a busy train.
Alternatively, to truly emancipate yourself from the long charade of pretending to read important-looking books in public, you could buy an eBook reader. Not only can you stop pretending to enjoy Dostoyevsky at 6.15 on a Monday morning, but can dive head-first and judgement-free into Wazzy Nazzock’s Biscuit Castle of Chicken Wizardry.
Pros: You can collect new, interesting words from books. Once you get a thousand, you can swap them for a picture.
Cons: The more that you know, the more you know that you don’t know. This is called wisdom, and it’s the quickest way to feel stupid.
Publicly Acceptable Cover Jackets
(You can read the first sizzling chapter of The Darkie’s Bed here…)
Option 3: Fall Asleep
Sleeping on your commute is one of the most exciting options available, involving as it does the constant fears that you’ll miss your stop, have your laptop stolen, and wake up being stared at by laughing teenagers because you’ve dribbled on your neck and accidentally tipped cold coffee on a guide-dog.
Of course, falling asleep in a public place may be initially difficult due to an otherwise healthy belief that strangers staring at you while you sleep is creepy. Luckily, however, when it is lots of strangers, you don’t know how many strangers they are, and those strangers change into different sets of strangers at every stop, it gets easier. This is good because the safest way to avoid missing your stop is to continuously fall asleep on their shoulders.
This is what strangers are for, which is why they’re so soft.
Sleeping on your commute is an especially attractive option if you work at the end of a metro line, as the danger of missing your stop is basically non-existent. You should take full advantage of this by bringing pyjamas, hot chocolate, a teddy bear, and a face mask, then lean against a window until you find yourself in an entirely empty carriage.
Don’t worry, you’ll know you’ve arrived because you’ll be prodded awake by a disenchanted man with a broom. He needs you to move so he can pick up a bag of spilled crisps.
Pros: You get to use the Dead Time of your commute productively, working your way through that morning’s inbox of unfinished dreams.
Cons: Strangers are going to see your snoring wide-open mouth, and try to throw things into it. That’s just life, I’m afraid.
Be careful not to sleep in the wrong place
Option 4: Listen to Music
One day, you’ll overhear a beautiful girl or boy listening to your favourite Bon Iver song. You’ll stare at them a lot. You’ll wonder what they’re thinking about. You’ll fall a bit in love with them in a sudden and slightly creepy way. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it because you can’t interrupt your own favourite song just to tell someone that you interrupted it just to tell them how much you like it, can you? No. Instead, you should think about the millions of charming things you could say, then say none of them, then stare at them, then look away when they look at you, then stare at them, and then repeat this procedure until they leave, forever.
At this point, you should decide that they are ‘The One.’
On the return journey, you’ll listen to the same Bon Iver song, lingering on the melancholic thought of some lost future love that could have been, and there will be a different beautiful girl or boy opposite you.
They’ll be looking at you this time; staring deep into your sensitive, forlorn face, overhearing your music, staring at you in a sudden, slightly creepy way, and wondering what you’re thinking about.
Unfortunately, they’re thinking, “Oi, dick, turn it down.”
Pros: You can choose the soundtrack to your life. Even if you look out the window to see an old lady getting mugged near a bin, it wont be so sad when you’re listening to Wham!’s Greatest Hits.
Cons: The constant paranoia that nearby people are over-hearing your obviously superior music taste and judging you.
How dare they judge you
Option 5: Play a Game on Your Phone
Video games are often judged by others as a waste of time, as if the embedded wisdom in other art-forms somehow survive the mortal soul, and improve the overall experience of the Universe for everyone. Unfortunately, these are tragic people who will never understand the simple, in-the-moment, Zen-like joy of flinging chickens at bricks with buttons.
Poke, poke, poke, swipe, poke, swipe. Awww, transcendence.
Remember that the goal of your commute is to get it over with as quickly (and least memorably) as possible, so there is really no better option than constantly jabbing a screen with your thumbs for progress points in a pixellated realm of reality that collapses when your mother calls.
Pros: You get to exercise crucial problem-solving instincts and physical reflexes, which are important training for playing future games on your phone.
Cons: You use so much of your battery life using your phone as a game, that you can’t use your phone as a phone.
That’s all, folks. Have fun out there!