Becky says things about … commuting

A multiple choice question for you, lovely Listener.

Would you rather:

a) Peel off your own cheek, rub salt into the bloody gaping hole, then staple the skin back to your now irreversibly deformed face;

b) Attempt to crawl inside the anus of an elephant who has just suffered from what his keeper calls ‘a wobbly tummy’; or

c) Stand in a confined space with your face inside the armpit of a stranger, and breathe in not only his gasses and vapours, but the gasses and vapours of a million other people in the same confined space for an indeterminate amount of time, twice a day?

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If you have opted for a) or b), you are most likely a commuter. Hello, fellow commuters. My name is Becky, and I am a commuter.

Twice a day, I stand in a train carriage along with approximately 2,450,957 other people. There is nothing pleasant about this.

I am short, Listener. I am 5 foot 4 inches. I therefore spend a great deal of my time standing below the faces of people taller than me, and when I am trying to read my book it is difficult to concentrate when I am caught in the violent torrent of a tall man’s nose breath.

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I board the morning train looking like this:

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and disembark looking like this:

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This is displeasing. It has also taught me that tall men breathe A LOT. More than is probably necessary.

I try to use the commuting time to read a book, in order to edify my mind. However, due to the fact that I am crammed into a small box with those 2,450,957 other people, this doesn’t always work out.

Example of failed reading #1:

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Example of failed reading #2:

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Oh, the intimate proximity of others, Listener. Faces everywhere. I turn my head to the right and my eyeball brushes against the eyeball of the man next to me. I turn my head to the left, and the girl chewing gum over my shoulder accidentally bites off my nose. I am so trapped I can only stare directly at whatever is straight ahead of me. On a recent journey, this happened to be an old, faded streak of bird poo on the back of a man’s jacket. By the end of the journey I was livid. JUST GET IT DRY CLEANED YOU FILTHY MONSTER. A whole journey staring into the face of another human’s evil disregard for cleanliness. Hellish.

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As a commuter, you learn to perform everyday actions at a minute fraction of their normal spatial requirements: sliding an object out of your bag with a movement invisible to the naked eye; holding your phone against your retina in order to text. This doesn’t always work out: last week my headphone wire got caught in the spokes of my umbrella as I was trying to fold it away into my bag, and my head ended up being sucked into my own handbag.

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And what if a song that you don’t like comes on your iPod? Or if the volume is UNBELIEVABLY LOUD AND IS LITERALLY RIPPING YOUR EAR DRUMS TO SHREDS AND WILL CAUSE YOU UNTOLD AURAL PROBLEMS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE??? There is nothing you can do about it. One of your arms is wedged against the testicles of an overweight businessman, and the other is pinned to your side by the force of 594 school children. You must spend the journey either being musically abused by the song you don’t like, or being deafened to the point of tears. The only thing you can do is just be brave, Listener. Brave.

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I entered a train carriage the other week to be faced with a man’s backpack. It was preventing me from getting my whole body inside the carriage, which is often necessary for a safe journey. I politely asked the man to take off his backpack so there was more room for me.

The man answered me with a cold, hard stare that said ‘When you die, I will not only give an incorrect church address to all your mourners, but I will visit your lonely grave and write in marker-pen on the gravestone: ‘I’ll wear my backpack wherever the f*ck I like”.

I was thus forced to hope that my body was mostly inside the train carriage, and as the doors closed, I was relieved to discover that I had not lost a crucial appendage – until I realised that my hair had become trapped in the door. I realised this because it forced my head to slowly lift towards the ceiling, so I had to spend the entire journey gazing quizzically aloft and pretending I was thinking deeply about something, with this bastard’s backpack wedged against my chin.

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Commuting is like being thrown into a Room 101 filled with all the horrendous things about human beings that you already hate. Incessant clearing of throats. Loud breathing. Snorting. Sniffing. Swallowing. Loud chewing. Random and inexplicable grunting. Loud private conversations about Sebastian’s unreliable cornet tutor or Roger’s worsening hernia, or loud business conversations filled with buzzwords and acronyms that make you want to vomit into your own sleeve.

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Commuting is the Devil’s journey. Commuting is our penance for all the bad things we have done in our lives. And our reward for our morning’s worth of psychological and physical abuse?

Work.

Brilliant.

 

Becky says things about … monstrous things about working in an office

Fairest and most magnificent Listeners, I salute you.

Do you work in an office? Yes? No? Not sure? (If you’re not sure I suggest you rethink your suitability to the workplace in general.)

If you work in an office, as I have done for the last five years, then you will understand that it holds many joys. To name but a few:

  •  office banter (only yesterday I mused out loud ‘What’s my password?’ and my boss replied ‘ ‘I’m a fuckwit’?’);
  • office pranks (who doesn’t enjoy covering every single item on their colleague’s desk with pictures of David Hasselhoff?);
  • office cakes (raspberry lamington from Jean in Finance, anyone?);
  • office insults (tip: insert any office or stationary item before the word ‘wanker’ i.e. ‘hole-punch wanker’ or ‘spreadsheet wanker’ (isn’t it fun? (okay, thank The Inbetweeners for that one)));
  • unbridled access to lots and lots of stationary.

Yep, working in an office can be an absolute joy.

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HOWEVER.

There are some truly monstrous things about working in an office. Things that make you question the very nature of human existence and contemplate the annihilation thereof. Take a deep breath, oh trusting Listener, and dare to face, in no particular order,

MONSTROUS THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN AN OFFICE

1. The Toilets

Forget the ‘in no particular order’ thing, this is definitely the number 1 most monstrous thing.

Now, I can’t speak for you blokes. I do not frequent the men’s toilets and therefore can’t make legitimately scathing remarks about your sanitation habits. However, I am extremely qualified to be scathing about the women’s toilets. Picture this: you have been on the phone for an hour. The person on the other end will not shut up and you are about to suffer an MBM (Mortifying Bladder Malfunction). You finally get off the phone, sprint to the toilets, barge through a cubicle door, and are faced with this:

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That’s right. The woman who used this toilet before you deemed it appropriate – necessary, even – to defy social convention and wee on the toilet instead of in the toilet. Yes, menfolk, it’s not just you who suffer the odd wayward wee. The sight you see above happens ALL.THE.TIME.

And I know who the culprits are. They are The Crouchers. The women who cannot bear to have their precious behinds touch the odious filth of the toilet seat.

I have three things to say to The Crouchers:

a) The toilet seat was not odiously filthy before you crouched over it to avoid touching its odious filthiness. It was odiously filthy after you crouched over it to avoid touching its odious filthiness, thus making it odiously filthy. Do not crouch. Your wee will go wayward. You are odiously filthy.

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b) Unless you are odiously filthy yourself, you would never, ever, be fine with leaving your own toilet in your own home in that it odious state. That is how The Plague started. If you must crouch, clean it up. For the love of God. Clean it up.

c) Your wee is always, without fail, always, this colour:

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You are not drinking enough water.  Drink some water.

2. When People Don’t Respond

Imagine you meet your friend at the pub. You’ve got a lot to chat about. You sit down in front of her and the following occurs:

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Aside from being a very unsuccessful night out, there may be a number of reasons why she is not responding to you:

  1. She has taken a vow of silence.
  2. She can’t be bothered.
  3. She is in a bad mood and just doesn’t want to talk.
  4. She is abominably rude.
  5. She hasn’t noticed you are there.
  6. She is dead.

Whatever the reason, it will exasperate, peeve, and infuriate you. That’s what it’s like when people don’t respond to emails. It makes you want to send an email along these lines:

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They still won’t respond.

3. When You Don’t Respond

So you got on your high horse about people not responding to your emails. You curse their incompetence and their appalling rudeness. You would never do such a crass and unprofessional thing. Then you receive the following email:

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Realising you are not perfect is a harsh cross to bear. A harsh cross.

4. Food Smells

You understand that people need to eat at certain times of the day. You yourself have a lovely ham and cheese sandwich in the fridge that you are very much looking forward to. But some of your colleagues are insistent that they must feast on the smelliest of foods for their lunch and think nothing of inflicting these pungent aromas on the rest of the office. Is last night’s curry necessary? Mexican? Smoked mackerel? Chinese cabbage? A chilli so spicy that it causes the rest of the office workers’ eyes to fall out?

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This is monstrous.

5. Colleagues who provide a running commentary on their daily activities 

You know the sort I mean. The colleagues who lack an interior monologue. Who tell you everything. I mean everything, from how many emails they have in their inbox, to how they have responded to said emails, to which documents they have just printed, to their intention to rise from their chair to collect said document from the printer, to how they have just inserted a formula into a spreadsheet, to how they are waiting for someone to respond to an email and how they are going to heat up last night’s curry for lunch.

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It is unnecessary. Unnecessary and monstrous.

6. The Fire Alarm Test

Despite the fact it happens every week, on the same day, at the same time, it will still take a year off your life and give you a small heart attack.

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7. People who leave long voicemails

We’ve all had them. The ones that begin: ‘Hi, it’s Barry – just after a quick catch-up on mousemat situation…..’

THREE HOURS PASS

‘…. anyway, give me a buzz when you’re back and we’ll chat about it.’

Please, Barry.

‘Hi it’s Barry, give me a call back when you can’ will suffice. Listen to me, Barry. Life’s too short.

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8. Technology

Our world is very high-tech. Isn’t it great? Of course it is. We don’t need to use pens anymore, we can send messages across the world at the click of a button, we can do anything, ANYTHING.

Except that we can’t.

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9. People who have in-depth conversations in inappropriate places

Namely: by the sinks or fridge in the kitchen or in the toilets. How many times have you been frightened to retrieve your salad from the fridge because these people are standing right in front of the fridge?

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Perhaps more monstrously, why do people choose to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets in the toilets? Toilet conversations are best left for nightclubs, where you can cry, shout, or throw up in the sink to your heart’s content, and everyone else is too drunk to notice or care. I appreciate that you may be concerned about your son’s marijuana habit – although you should be grateful it’s not heroin or sheep (terrible thing, a sheep habit) – but when I go to the toilet I do not want to hear your conversation, just like you do not want to hear my tinkling. I’d like to tinkle in private thank you very much. Hearing about your son’s marijuana habit a foot away from me as I sit on the toilet gives me stage fright and I’ll just have to sit there not weeing until you leave.

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Yes, I know. It’s been a painful journey of monstrous situations, many of which you may have experienced only today. And you will experience them again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

But keep smiling. It’s Friday tomorrow.