The other day I laughed at a joke that I overheard someone telling to their friend. It wasn’t massively funny but I snorted. The problem here was that I did this on a bus on my to work. We all know the rules – you don’t talk or communicate in any way with others except for practical purposes (basically grunting and pointing is all that’s required) whilst commuting. So I sat in shame with everyone avoiding eye contact with me for the rest of the journey.
I used to be good at this you know, it was all second nature and nothing shocked me. I worked near St Thomas’ so was used to the odd hospital escapee running down the street in front of me wearing nothing but an opened backed surgical gown flapping in the breeze whilst I was on my way to work. Ok there was the one time I made the mistake of sitting in the only empty seat on a tube carriage despite the fact that some people were standing. And my neighbour (a fairly unattractive yet average looking man in a suit) pointed at the picture of Cameron Diaz in the metro I was reading and said ‘I fucked her I did, I fucked her last week’. Oh wondrous I thought – I got myself a mentalist (I would imagine anyway as I’m fairly sure she was busy with Justin Timberlake back then and not commuting to South West London for middle aged slightly tubby sexy time), and, by the way that he’s muttering ‘fucking bitch, fucking bitch’ under his breath it looks like I got me a women hater too – let’s just hope he’s not a women stabber, I’ve got a meeting at 9. It could have been worse I suppose, the empty seat normally means someone has urinated on it. But generally I was hardened to these things back then – I had my commuting blinkers on and I just got on with it. But now you see I’ve gone soft. For a long time I haven’t been ‘commuting’ on public transport, just you know, sort of traveling somewhere with very little time pressure. The middle of the day bus crowd are great – old ladies and mums. It’s boiled sweets and chats about how old the little ones are and remarking on the weather and apologising to each other. My frame of reference now is completely different to the old commuting me and there is very little ‘Something Special’ about catching sight of a pigeon eating a puddle of sick on the pavement on your way to work as happened to me last week. The conclusion is – I have turned into a commuting pussy.
And this is not the ideal time for this to happen to me. Now is the time that I need to be more Jason Bourne than Driving Miss Daisy in commuting terms. Returning to work can be pretty stressful but what all parents should dread more than performance reviews or sales presentations are nursery pick up deadlines!!! And with the vagaries of TFL working against you pretty much every step of the journey home it’s deeply stressful. I went back to work in between my two kids in a client service role. The phone calls from hell five minutes before you absolutely had to leave to get there on time, would often mean my 8 months gone booty was running to catch trains or flagging down taxis to try and get there on time. Seeing the panic of fellow commuters on seeing a sweaty, stressed, heavily pregnant women clutching her stomach heaving herself onto their carriage almost made it worthwhile. You could see that panicked looks of concern about the fact that I might actually be in labour. Throwing in a couple of heavy breathing moves and stomach rubbing to heighten alarm was a quite amusing bonus on an otherwise crap journey.
And then you finally get there wild eyed and stressed to find your child with their hat and coat on, sat in reception with the last carer and all the lights are off and you realise that they are the very.. last.. one.