Getting the best out of your commute

london underground, commute

Article provided by Sara Yirrell, technology journalist and author of The Diary of an Angry Commuter

After spending 17 years sharing a metal tube on rails each day, I have witnessed many an interesting moment in the hour plus journey it takes me to get to the big smoke… trains are frequented by a peculiar species… the commuter.

A weird, wonderful, habitual, territorial, rude and often laugh out loud hilarious race – it made for more colourful watching than a box set on Netflix.

And as we start to come out of the summer holiday period, because regularly commuters will attest this is the period of time when trains whilst they empty out of commuters on some days – they actually get crammed with day tripers making journeys uncomfortable in other ways – and if this summer is to go by temperatures that could fry eggs in seconds if the air conditioning is up the spout!

So if you are thinking about becoming a commuter, here are a few of my golden rules to help ease things a little…

  1. Arrive early and learn where the doors fall on the platform so you can stand in the space. This will give you a greater chance of grabbing a seat if the service is the sardine express.
  2. Take an iPod or make sure you have something to watch on catchup or a film downloaded or even a game to play – that way you can drown out any noises from your fellow passengers – especially important around half term.
  3. Always bring a drink with you, morning and evening – water is absolutely essential – you never know when you will get stuck for hours or chucked off a train with no access to refreshments.
  4. Ditto with food/a snack, particularly in the evenings when you are hungry and tired. Always expect the worst and if you are lucky it will not happen.
  5. Catch up on work – it is actually remarkably easy to work on a train because the last thing most commuters want to do is chat, as long as the person opposite you is not trying to hog the entire table with their enormous ultrabook.
  6. Catch up on sleep – if you are travelling to work every day, you are going to feel tired, particularly towards the end of the week. Try and get some sleep if you can, definitely easier with headphones. If you are a heavy sleeper, set your phone alarm to wake you up so you don’t miss your stop.
  7. Before the train is due to arrive at your station, get up (if you have managed to grab a seat that is) and stand by the doors to ensure you are the first off – there is nothing worse than having to wait for people to faff about with luggage and then work out how to use the ticket barriers.
  8. Embrace flexible working and make sure your employer is a flexible working advocate – the only way to survive commuting long-term is if you can have a couple of days recovering at home from the stress of it all.
  9. Don’t sit in reserved seats hoping for the best. It never works out. The fact that most commuters cannot reserve seats is a disgrace, but save yourself any hassle in the long run and ensure the seat you pick is unreserved.
  10. Follow your train company on social media, particularly Twitter. Quite often they will warn you in advance if there are problems and you can arrange your time accordingly.
  11. Don’t do it. Get a job on your doorstep. It works for people living in Albert Square and Coronation Street.

About the author

Sara Yirrell, technology journalist and now author of The Diary of an Angry Commuter, has spent 17 years of her young life commuting to London. The book, designed to be absolutely tongue in cheek, documents the lack of manners, desperation, passive aggressive behaviour witnessed amongst professional people who normally know better. If you are a commuter, you will have no doubt witnessed some of these stories – an ideal read if you are looking for a laugh in your life.

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