On Commuting

A tale of modern London 

Article by Geoffrey Leadwell

You put on your freshly ironed shirt or new jumper.  You look at yourself in the mirror.  There you are.  You’ve got the great bag, and inside it the posh diary you treated yourself to, and the special pen that you were gifted.  Your coat completes the look.

You leave the house, lock the door, step into the street.  You’re full of purpose.  You’re going somewhere – you’re going to work.  You’re going to your job which is a big part of who you are.  Your job isn’t always easy but you love it.

Everyone is going to work.  The nearer you get to the tube the more people you see, all heading in the same direction, with their coats and their bags, all part of something, all bringing their own unique strengths with them, using them positively; all contributing in their own individual way.

As they come to the entrance of the tube they are handed a paper, and you take a paper too, tucking it under your arm, because you like to read the paper while you travel.

But as you enter the station, your progress slows; there is a backlog of people around the entrance gates, which were never designed to cope with these numbers.  The hurried walks turn to a shuffle, tiny painstaking steps; you’re pressing forward inch by inch towards the tap in point, staring at the hair of the person in front, clutching your Oyster ready.  You go down the escalator in streams and onto the platform.

When the train comes there is no space in the carriage but you make space, pushing people closer together, pressing against them, standing shoulder to shoulder.  You’re so crammed in you begin to blur into one another.  Hand clutching your bag, face squeezed up against a shirt, staring thoughtlessly down at the weave on your now meaningless jumper.  Your eyes flit around you, you read the words Paul Smith on a button, Michael Kors embossed into leather, note a quality timepiece not dissimilar to your own, someone in almost identical shoes.  You’re hot.  You’re sweating.  You’re overdressed.  The newspaper is crushed under your arm.  You all have a newspaper crushed under your arm.  You all have the same phone and everyone is wearing headphones.  You are now one uniform mass.  You move together.  You breathe together.  At every stop more people merge with you.  You are indistinguishable from them.  They are indistinguishable from you.

Pushing out, tapping back through the barrier, your sense of self gradually returns as the space around you increases, as you fall back into your own personal groove, your own unique route; as your body returns to its normal temperature.  You go into the Pret you like on the corner of the street you work on.  You take your pastry and hot beverage up the stairs with you, into your office, and sit at your desk, where your colleague is already working.  She compliments your jumper and you compliment her bag. riddle_stop 2

Send this to a friend