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
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