The Commuter Diaries


By Robert Dean

I never thought that commuting on the train would be so fun. After two weeks of Britain’s unreliable service I had started to develop a real hatred for my daily journeys. I then started to think of ways that I could brighten up my day. It suddenly struck me that trains are the only place where you can see such a varied cross section of British life in such an intimate setting. I then, rather voyeuristically, decided that I would keep a small diary of all the weird and wonderful things that I came across over the month of December. Here are the highlight entries.

Þ     December 4th 2012

Sleeping Beauty

A nice early finish on a Friday and I make my way home whilst trying to plan the weekend ahead. I found a nice empty block of four seats in what seemed like an empty carriage. It was then I started to hear a strange murmur coming from a few rows behind me. I got up to investigate and saw two feet sticking out into the aisle – strangely one with shoe and one without.  Connected to those feet was  a rather rotund, weather-beaten man sprawled across three seats and enjoying a snooze. I stood there mesmerised as on every out breath a loud whisper of incomprehensible babble shot out of his mouth. It was almost a shame that no one else was on the carriage to enjoy this comedy gold. But then my conscious started to play tricks on me. What if this guy is in trouble? What if he needs help? I toyed with the idea of waking him to see if he was ok but in the end I let comedy –  and in all fairness common sense  –  rule the day and let the man sleep it off.

Þ     December  12th 2012

Shameless Phone Call

It had been a long day and the last thing I wanted to do was sit on the train home for an hour. However my journey was to be brightened up by a young man having a phone conversation whilst overly caught up in the grips of passion. The man, who was sitting opposite me, started his chat in an innocent enough fashion:

“Hiya love, how was work?”

“What we doing for dinner tonight?”

“What you up for doing later then?”

But that last contribution seemed to trigger some x-rated dialogue between the pair. Whilst I wouldn’t want to go into full detail of what was said, I think it’s fair to say that  passengers recoiled as he explained how “he’s gonna lick that” and where “he’s gonna stick this”, so to speak. I thought to myself does he not realise he is on a busy train and 50-60 people are within earshot or does he just have no shame? I left the train with a strange feeling of admiration and disgust in equal measure.

Þ     December 16th 2012

Fear stricken man

I got on a packed train in the morning and was struggling to find a seat. I decided to settle where I was and politely asked a man if he could move his suitcase so I could use the seat next to him. Much to my confusion he greeted my request with a look of fear and bemusement. He quickly gathered his stuff and clung to it tightly. I sat there pretending to read my paper but was really thinking about what I might have done to scare this man so much.  I mean I am quite a large gentleman but I don’t consider myself to be an intimidating figure. I decided to try and defuse the situation by giving him a little nod and a smile. However, this only made things worse. I started to wonder what he must be thinking about me and pictures of Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher sprung to mind. At this stage I realised there was nothing I could do to convince this man that I mean him no harm, so my devious side started to kick in. I started to think of jokes I could play on him. I thought a wide eyed, continuous stare or deep, heavy breathing would really freak this guy out but then normality struck me so I spared his blushes. He got off one stop before me and awkwardly bundled past without saying a word and I am still none the wiser as to why he was so shaken.

Þ     December 18th 2012

The heart warming tale

This entry turned out to be very different than I first expected. An exhausted looking man  got on the train with his young boy, who I would guess was around 5 or 6. The child was very lively and the man, who was in paint splattered overalls and had clearly had a tough day at work, was struggling to handle his son’s excitable mood.  The youngster was eating a packet of sweets and was running up and down the aisle. When the train came to a halt, he unfortunately fell thus releasing a shower of Smarties  into the walk way. This was clearly the last straw for the dad so he picked his son up, put him in a chair and gave him a stern telling off. However, it was at this stage that the anecdote took an uplifting turn. The son sat there for a few minutes and stewed on what had happened. He then sat on his father’s lap and told him “I’m really sorry daddy, I really love coming to your house”.  Whilst clearly trying to fight the tears back the father replied “Thanks son, I love having you”.  If that doesn’t bring a festive cheer to your heart then I don’t know what will.


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