One of my least favourite aspects of commuting is having to wake up earlier than usual to go to work, the other one is public transport. By now I have a pretty clear mental list of the things that piss me off like there’s no tomorrow and I try to avoid them. This is no laughing matter, a bad commute can break my day, and it took me about a year to figure this out.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF COMMUTING
- Avoid sitting near people who are engaged in lively conversation at 7AM.
- Identify people whose voices you hate (when you take the same bus regularly this may happen) and sit far from them.
- You’re no longer a cool kid, stay clear from the back of the bus. That’s where teenagers go to gossip about who kissed who, which you definitely don’t want to hear about.
- Stay away from the front unless you want to listen to whatever the bus driver is listening to, which is usually music you hate.
- Find something to do so you don’t feel like you’re wasting two hours of your day. I usually meditate, read or revise my German vocabulary.
- Noise cancelling earphones are your best friend.
- If somebody is carrying food stay as far as you can, you never know if that package hides a smelly chorizo sandwich.
- It’s very likely that the person on the phone will remain on the phone for the entire trip. Do. Not. Sit. Near. Them.
- Listen to the same music you used to listen to on the way to high school, it’ll help you to canalise your anger.
- Sit near the door so you can get out as soon as possible.
Of course, these ten commandments pose a huge problem. WHAT ABOUT SMELLY PEOPLE? These are not so easy to identify, and the rules to follow when encountered with a smelly person are blurry. I’m sure we all had that one kid in our class whose armpit odour would follow him wherever he went from the age of 11. Did these people not realise? Did they carry a secret stash of deodorant in their schoolbag?
Somehow nobody ever said anything. You can’t exactly go up to a person and say “excuse me, do you think you’d be able to stop flapping your arms for a bit? You’re intoxicating us all.” It also feels really rude to go “oh man, it fucking stinks here” really loudly, as the offender might have a health problem that’s completely out of her control, and unnecessarily hurting people’s feelings is not cool at all. Is changing your seat ok? Probably, but I was too embarrassed to do it. Sometimes I’ve seen other passengers (mostly female ones) frantically spraying perfume around themselves. This solutions is doubly problematic; not only will the smell of perfume mixed with sweat make you want to puke, but some perfumes really do stink. Smell is, after all, a subjective thing. We get used to smells and cease to perceive them so strongly, which makes me forever paranoid that I’m the stinky passenger to the nose of somebody else.
Back to the bus. Everybody knows that when you’re stuck 30cm away from somebody’s smelly armpits with way out for at least an hour and no air conditioning or ventilation that smell penetrates your brain and it becomes everything you can focus your attention on, which of course accentuates the problem. One can only look at their watch slowly counting every minute that’s left of the trip while trying not to feel nauseous and hoping that the smelly person gets off on the first stop.
The whole thing gets even worse if, like me last Friday on the way back from work, you have a fever. I have never felt so tortured by someone’s mere presence, and all I could do was writing angry tweets about it and getting off a stop before mine to flee the crime scene before passing out. As soon as I got home my brain was stupid enough to decide reminding me of the smell constantly, to the point that I had to wash all my clothes and hair because I really felt like this guy’s armpit was glued to me. Now, two days later, the subject is still in my head (although thankfully the smell has left).
Now I finally know the real reason why I should learn to drive and be all like: