Commuting / I hate The Metro

I caught the tube to work today*, unusually. As the nights draw in I’m interested to see if I become a fair-weather cyclist, or whether I’ll have the sheer bloody mindedness to battle my way to the office in all conditions.

What might encourage me to stay on my bike (and perhaps invest in some waterproofs) is how quickly the concept of commuting has become alien and unthinkable. All the people on the train are also alien and unthinkable. I got a seat this morning (I was tactically late and got to the station at about 0855*) and did a quick investigation of my carriage. There were twelve seats, and starting with the seat nearest the vestibule on the left hand side, the inhabitants were

1. Reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I have no idea what this book is about, but 90% of Londoners are currently reading it. This means I assume it’s shit. It also means I’m a snob.

2. Gazing intently at his ipod/phone/thing. He was listening to Led Zeppelin.

3. Me, breaking tube code by openly staring at people

4. Looking at The Metro, a newspaper-themed product I still believe to be part of some kind of sinister mind-control plot

5. Looking at The Metro

6. Looking at The Metro

7. Looking at The Metro

8. Asleep

9. Plugged into his apple product

10. Reading The Independent

11. Looking at The Metro

12. Looking at The Metro

Now, I understand those looking at The Metro. I too am English and are bound by the unspoken rules of etiquette and behaviour; on a commuter train the desire not to draw attention to oneself is overwhelming. The easiest way to not draw attention to oneself is to hide behind a shit free newspaper. This also stops your brain doing bad things, like thinking.

The Metro is the prized possession of the tunnels. When a commuter gets up and leaves a paper, I’ve seen the look of pure avarice on the surrounding paperless commuters’ faces. I’ve seen how they wait until the person has got off the train before picking it up (lest he changes his or her mind and comes back to claim his property. Imagine the shame. Feel the social awkwardness). I’ve seen the despair of the person who waited too long, their prize snaffled by their neighbour. I’ve also felt these things. I understand. I want it too, despite myself.

Apart from its inherent shiteness, the problem with The Metro is how it’s supposedly apolitical. There are no comment pages, no editorial columns. It’s all regurgitated press releases and lifestyle gubbins, sure; but I find the idea that the paper lacks ideology offensive. It’s ideology is clear from what it reports on: celebrities,  fluffy animals, and what shit to buy. It’s the epitome of vacuous don’t-think-of-tomorrow capitalism, and it represents a society of consumers not citizens. It scares me more than The Mail, or The Sun, because these papers are brazen about their agendas and their willingness to pander to their readership’s worst urges and prejudices. They’re evil, but openly evil, like a wasp or a moustache-twirling man who’s just tied your girlfriend to some train-tracks**.

The Metro is more like Nick Clegg.

* I wrote this on Friday, incidentally

** Cutting-edge cultural reference here

~ by jamboshoeshine on September 27, 2010.

9 Responses to “Commuting / I hate The Metro”

  1. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t bad for that sort of thing (this line of thinking is probably even snobbier), the 2nd book’s kinda fun, but the 3rd is a joke. Also the translation is woeful. As I finished all of them last month I’m surprised people are still reading them.

    Waterproofs are essential, and then you need rack and panniers to carry them just in case it rains later. And then you need to keep a coat at work in case you go out and don’t want to wear your cycling clothes. Sometimes I think I should just get the bus again.

    • See, all this sounds like a lot of effort. But then getting the tube is also a lot of effort, at least psychologically, as essayed above.

      Thanks for the book review.

      • Although Stroud Green to Kings Cross? Why not just get the bus? I guess 10mins or whatever on the Vic is tempting.

        I also hate the Metro, especially This Life, the awful advert/comic for a directory enquiry firm and the letters page.

  2. I like the fact you have used the word ‘vestibule’ in the last two of your blog posts. It pleases me. It’s nearly a shame the tube journey wasn’t a Kafka-esque nightmare too. How was Notts this weekend?

    I also hate the Metro. It was worse when there was about 5 free newspapers in a day. I didn’t know what to do with meself on the journey home sometimes. Just read the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo over and over, ho ho.

    • Hello chuck. You’re right, it was worse when there was the London Paper and The London Lite as well. At least those vile pestilences have been driven from our land.

      I’ll try to shoehorn in vestibule to my next entry. Maybe I should write about Nottingham. I went bowling, that was the best bit.

  3. I was very disappointed with Girl with….because people that I’ve generally found reliable in rccommending books all said it was great. It wasn’t. Now I’m going to have to make my own mind up about what to read. Probably not Metro.

    • I guess the tricky thing for me is I spend most of my time reading non-fiction. I enjoy fiction a lot but I am largely distrustful of anything that has been published in the past 40 years, because anything since the late sixties hasn’t ‘matured’ yet and rather than being a classic may instead be a total waste of time. I exclude SF from this rather exacting and self-denying rule.

      In Greece I read Brave New World, which I enjoyed.

  4. I spent the last week getting the tube and train to work, and it was horrible. I’m in a much better mood when I walk to work – a combination of being in control and not being surrounded with miserable commuters. So I’d advocate cycling in even when it’s cold, dark and rainy. I know it requires more advance planning than walking, but you will probably feel healthier, happier, and very very smug. I know I do.

    • The main problem will be the early shifts – I’m barely even quarter-awake, which is never a good thing for cycling.

      Also, when it’s cold, cycling makes it feel twice as bad. And then you’re stuck without the correct jacket for the rest of the day, as cycling in a heavy one would make you too hot.

      Might just buy a hot air balloon.

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