Thursday, March 22, 2007

Winning the battle of the 8:15

I scored a minor victory today in the morning public transport battle. The train was crowded as usual, standing room only. I squeezed in with my fellow commuters. A young woman squeezed in in front of me and chose to spend the entire journey in conversation on her phone. This is not in itself a crime but this particular lady felt that she needed more room in front no doubt in order to better express herself during the conversation. Unfortunately I was standing directly behind her so the only way for her to gain the space she desired was to push me back. This lady was far from elfin but you you might still consider it unlikely that she could easily push back a 14 stone (90 kg) specimen like myself. However there is a simple method by which the unscrupulous commuter can abuse the normal good will of fellow travellers to win themselves more territory. It relies on the normal swaying motion of the train and works like this: Often while in transit standing passengers find themselves moved back and forth by the motions of the train. When somebody is pushed into you in this way it is a natural response to take a small step away. Most passengers do this without thinking knowing they will recover lost ground on the return stroke. However an unsrupulous passenger will move into the space that has just been released AND STAND FIRM ON THE cOUNTERSTROKE thus ensuring that ground gained is not lost. We are talking about almost imperceptible steps here - perhaps a few mm at a time but given the contant motion of the train these small steps very quickly add up to a major territory gain. This young lady proved to be a master at these tactics and so I found my self being pushed inexorably backwards. There was a problem however for behind me was a large gentleman and behind him was a very solid pole. It became clear that I had to stand my ground or risk my atoms being sqeezed into his in a most unwlecome Flann O'Brienesque manner. The solution to incremental territorial encroachment is to stand one's ground absorbing the normal too and fro motions of the train without moving one's feet. This is the approach I took. Our young tormentor was not one to be easily thwarted however because once her gentle terrtorial encroaches stopped working she upped the ante and started to willfully push back hard with no regard to the motions of the train. This despite the fact that she already occupied a space at least equal to that into which the large gentleman and myself were already squeezed. Her mastery of the commuter battle is perhaps best gauged from the fact that she remained turned away from me the whole time fully engaged in conversation and seemingly oblivious to the dire struggle for lebensraum going on behind her. She did not prevail however for I was fortunate enough to be carrying a newspaper. Said paper rolled up and held under my arm in an apparently casual manner proved to be my secret weapon. The next time the young lady tried to push back she met that spiky protrusion and flinched from it. She made a few more attempts at encroachment but each attempt was met and rebuffed by the same wordy projection. At one stage she even turned around to see what was obstructing her but it was no my turn to adopt an attitude of casual disinterest, apparently oblivious to the movements around me.

Such are the diversions of a wage slave on the morning commute to work. Oh what petty creatures we really are.

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