Ah, public transport.
I’ve never been a fan of it, to be honest, and was fortunate enough not to have to use it much over the past few years. I lived in a relatively small city, a short walk from work, and a half hour stroll from the centre of town. Hailing a taxi was easy, fast, and cheap, so I did so several times a week without even thinking about it. And before I lived in Korea, I had a car. It was very rare that I found myself waiting for a bus.
Nowadays, I half live on the Prague public transport system – which is excellent, thankfully. Well connected, regular, easy to follow, and with a handy website that tells you the fastest way from A to B using your current location and your destination – right down to the bus/metro/tram times, required transfers, and alternative routes. And having the Opencard means that I don’t have to bother with all the hassle of buying/stamping tickets – I can just hop on and off any bus, train, or tram I want. All good!
Spending so much time on public transport does, however, make you develop a set of pet peeves. Depending on my mood, these make me sigh and roll my eyes, or fume inwardly as I silently plot revenge on all other commuters. And so, may I present: my top 5 public transport gripes.
5. The Noisy Talkers.
I’m not quite as extreme as the Koreans, who seemed to think we deserved to be imprisoned for daring to have a whispered conversation on the train. I’ve never been good with lots of simultaneous noises, though (like if the TV’s on, and people are talking, and I can hear music coming from another room… it makes me feel crazy), and it’s the same on trains or buses. A low murmur of voices, and I don’t really notice it. But a group of giggling teenage girls, or two half-deaf old men having a shouted conversation, or regular coughing/sneezing/snorting noises, and I feel trapped in the same way as I do when near a screaming baby on a plane. Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop! I actually got off the bus one day last week because a group of loud girls at the back were nudging me into the abyss of insanity with their shouts and roars.
4. The Slow Movers.
This applies to all public spaces, but is even worse in crowded metro stations in rush hour, when you know people are hurrying to make connections in order to get to work on time. Really, I feel that the general public would benefit from learning a few common sense-inspired rules. Don’t dawdle along, staring at your phone, while in a huge crowd of people who are trying to get from one platform to the next! Don’t stroll casually out of the train carriage towards the stairs when people are clearly running to try and fling themselves into the train before the doors close! Don’t plonk yourself on the left on the escalator to stand and chat to your friend, thus blocking absolutely everyone behind you from passing! Get out of the bloody way, move briskly, and if you are physically incapable of moving briskly, then stand politely aside to let the crowd pass. It’s not that difficult. These people deserve to be bitch-slapped quite severely, they really do.
3. The Seat Hoggers.
Sitting there with their luggage or shopping strewn all over the seat(s) next to them, or legs outstretched so that no one else can sit down. Usually with their eyes closed and wearing earphones so they can act like they aren’t aware someone else might appreciate being allowed to sit down. Grrrrrrrr.
2. The Compulsive Standers.
On a half-empty bus, tram, or metro carriage, it makes not one hair of difference to me whether you choose to stand despite the presence of vacant seats, or to sit with your possessions sprawled over several. But even worse than the above-mentioned Seat Hoggers are the Compulsive Standers, who will refuse to sit down in an empty seat, but instead be crushed into the centre of the carriage despite the seat that they are actually leaning over in order to have a pole to grab for balance.
For a start, it makes no sense to me that you wouldn’t prefer to sit than to deal with the crush. If I could make it to that seat, I would gladly flop down into it – but it’s so crowded that you are the only person who can use it. But personal preferences aside, you are inconveniencing everyone else by standing there, blocking a seat. It’s no good claiming you don’t need it and will leave it free for an elderly person. At this stage, when people are still crowding and pushing into every possible space, there’s no way an elderly person is going to make it to that seat – all you are doing, in fact, is effectively taking space for two people, thus worsening the crush. Sit the feck down on the fecking seat and let people move along, why don’t you?! If someone looks like they need the seat, you can get up and offer it to them. No one’s going to crawl and wriggle past you to get into it while you’re standing there. Stop. Being. A dick.
1. The Excuse Me Crew.
I hate this, hate it, hate it beyond all reason. So, I’m standing there holding on to a pole for dear life. I can’t balance in moving vehicles, so I need to hold on tightly. Now, even when my stop is the next one, and we’re slowing down, I still refuse to let go of the pole – and if I’m lucky enough to have a seat, I will remain sitting – until we have come to a complete stop. There’s that moment, just before the doors open, when the whole vehicle jolts and stops, and people stagger around in surprise. I fail to understand it. It happens every single time, at every single stop. There’s always someone who has let go of their pole or attempted to stand up, and been sent stumbling across the aisle. Why don’t you wait until the jolt happens and everything is still and safe?! Why?!! It’s annoying enough in itself, but then you’ve got the Excuse Me Crew in the middle of it all. Usually just before the jolt happens, they start to make their way towards the doors. Maybe they find it easier than I do to keep their balance, I dunno, but they’re all “Excuse me! Excuse me!”, pushing and shoving their way to the exit of the still-moving vehicle.
I have two choices. I can (a) let go of my pole to let them past, and promptly fall over when the jolt occurs. Or, I can (b) glare fiercely at them and refuse to stop clinging to the pole. I must confess, these days it’s (b) all the way. I mean, half the time this happens on the approach to a major station or stop, where you know that everyone will be getting out – so why on earth should I let go of my pole, fall over, and get shoved to the back somewhere, just to let you out before me?! It makes no sense to me, and I don’t understand how the Excuse Me Crew think this is socially acceptable behaviour. IT IS NOT. If I were in an English-speaking country, I might just reply firmly “It’s OK, I’m getting out here, too.” and refuse to budge. As it is, I try to pretend not to notice them with their I’m-more-important-than-you shoving and Excuse Mes. No, I will not excuse you!! Wait till the fecking thing has stopped, and then I’ll let go of the fecking pole!!!
Public transport. It’s a zoo out there.