I Smile

I jog past a colleague outside the office, pausing for a moment only to apologise for not being able to stop to chat, because I have a train to catch. I always played things by ear and even as recently as autumn, I would have stopped. There was always another bus.

I stand patiently in line at Oxford Circus to buy a ticket to the suburbs, just outside London. I don’t have a pass because my last weekly one expired as I continue to optimise my commuting expenditure. I note that I’m trading a non-renewable resource, my time, to save a bit of renewable resource, my cash.

Skipping down the escalator I keep repeating my mantra, “stay patient”. Arriving at the crowded platform, I read my book for a minute and when the tube arrives, I continue for another few minutes, standing, of course, being jostled, forcing myself to smile because the alternative would just be miserable.

At the inter city rail station, I scan the departure board for the train times. I missed my preferred train by one minute. I don’t curse as I used to. Jogging to the holding area, well, not quite jogging, more a fast shuffle, like the undead on uppers, I find the optimum position for scanning the TV monitor for the platform announcement. Like sprinters, poised, we hope to catch the ‘b’ of the bang as the frame with the platform number appears. It appears. I’m on the move.

Speed-shuffling to the train, I suppress the joy of the small victory of a double seat that will remain singly occupied for the duration of my journey.

I read my book. It was a gift from a man who I respect, admire and like an awful lot.

As I meditate on my status as a commuter, taking small pleasure in trivial trip optimisations and feeling the merest twinge of grief at the most minor inconveniences, I feel also a prick of cognitive dissonance when I look at the title of the book, which is “Punk Rock – An Oral History”

I was once that teenager into punk, who swore he’d never become a commuter.

I smile.

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