Friday, 12 August 2011

#DearCommuter - brief notes on commuter rage and catharsis

I've just been elbowed twice by a loud-breathing man in his mid-50s, reading "One for the Money" by Janet Evanovich, listening to Lily Allen loudly, and occupying one-and-a-half train seats. I was elbowed when the fabric strap of my canvas bag had the audacity to fall off my shoulder with a jolt of the train and graze the sleeve of his plain white tee. I was elbowed twice because I failed to react the first time.

My initial thoughts were of quiet indignance, but the more I thought about how I'm sitting twisted in my commuter seat, elbows-on-pelvic-bone and legs-in-the-aisle, the more I realised I was suffering a small bout of what, in larger portions, can be seen as commuter-rage. One quick message to a friend, and all my pent-up resentment towards the man vanished (I retain my resentment towards train manufacturers who promote size-zero seating and National Express East Anglia for its own set of reasons).

It's interesting how, often, all that is required is a quick comment to a friend for the event to be forgotten. In the best cases, the situation can lead to a good chucke and be turned into a comical anecdote, albeit probably not one you'll still be telling at the dinner table in 3 weeks time. I wonder if this ability to quickly project something into the aether, were it not to cause more obvious damage than good, be of help to dispel road-rage too.

For those of us who do not risk the lives of others by picking up our phones in the heat of the moment, we can find catharsis through a quick sms message. However, it must be borne in mind that friends have no "unsubscribe" option and can't politely opt-out of your commuting first world problems bursts, and so if they are to remain friends you might want to consider a somewhat less direct option. The wonderful world of social media has brought us, amongst other tools, Twitter. Maybe the next time three people ram into me as I try to alight, I'll remember to write an open letter to my #dearCommuter and not notice too big a drop in followers.


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