Friday 24 December 2004

One or two slight problems with public transport.

Mr Spacejack is upset that bastards like me have the temerity to drive cars, against his explicit wishes. Gosh.

(Yeah, I know: two and a half years old, and I just get round to it now. Well, I only found it the other day.)

First off, I'm not talking about people with a real legitimate need to drive; like if you're unfortunate enough to drive for a living, or you've got to move a large piece of furniture across town, have to drive a bunch of kids to hockey practice, or those who live in rural areas without public transportation, or even carpoolers (do they even exist anymore?).

That's awfully big of you. You mean to say that some of us have your permission? I'm weeping with gratitude.

I'm talking about you urban-dwelling twits, one to a car, who could easily, easily be taking the bus or the subway instead, but refuse to because of some stuck-up class superiority hangup, while opposing any sort of investment in public transportation.

There are many reasons why I avoid public transport, and class superiority is not one of them.

Let's leave aside the dubious assumption that we all have some sort of moral duty to use public transport, that it is somehow more inherently evil to travel by yourself in a small vehicle than with a bunch of strangers in a large one. (And if public transport is so much cleaner, then how comes bus-only streets are so polluted?) Here is a list of requirements I have for any transport, public or private, before I use it. They're quite basic requirements; nothing fancy.

  • I would like to be able to sit down if I want to.

  • If I'm travelling with my wife, I'd like to sit next to her.

  • I would like to sit in a clean seat that has not recently been set alight.

  • I do not want a pool of drink, spit, vomit, or urine, or old food, or litter at my feet.

  • I do not wish to be shouted at, or spat at, or be slapped, or have sectarian songs sung loudly and threateningly at me.

  • I do not want anyone to accidentally sit on me or to fall on me.

  • I want braking, whenever possible, to be gradual. I wish to be thrown out of my seat by an emergency stop less frequently than twice a minute.

  • I don't want the driver to insult me.

  • I do not wish to get chewing gum on my clothes.

  • I don't want to put up with listening to other people's racist slurs.

  • I don't want a fight to break out next to me.

  • If I buy something while I'm out, I want somewhere to put the shopping bags.

  • While I'm getting in or out of the vehicle, I want the option of having it stay still.

  • I don't want anyone to blow cigarette smoke into my face.

  • I do not wish to sit next to anyone whose body odour is so overpowering that it literally makes me gag.

  • I want to be able to get in and out of the vehicle without being jostled, pushed out of the way, or sworn at.

  • I want to take a fairly reasonable amount of time over my journey.

  • For example, getting home from my last job, I had a choice between using the train, which took an hour and a half, or taking the car, which took less than thirty minutes, including the time taken to walk to the car. I don't mind a bit of a delay, but that seems excessive.

  • I would like the temperature of the vehicle to be neither so hot that I sweat like a pig in a plastic bag and get a migraine nor so cold that I can't feel my toes.

  • I don't want the driver to be reading a paper while driving.

  • I don't want the journey to be unnecessarily complicated.

  • I used to have to commute from Govanhill to Uddingston, in Glasgow. A direct route does exist, and no public transport goes anywhere near it. A direct train line even exists, but the trains, for mystical reasons, don't use it. The first fifteen minutes or so of every journey had to be spent travelling in the opposite direction to where I was headed. Similarly, in my current job, I could use public transport if I were to allow an extra hour and a half or so for all the unneccessary distance I would have to travel.

  • I do not want to spend any time at all in a sewer.

  • This is not a figure of speech. It is a reference to Dalmarnock Station in Glasgow. I recommend visiting it once — otherwise, you'd simply never believe it — and never going back.

  • If I'm delayed, I still want to be able to get home late at night.

  • I do not wish to catch hypothermia while waiting for the vehicle.

  • I do not wish to be mugged or assaulted while waiting for the vehicle.

  • When the vehicle arrives, I would like it to stop.

  • In Glasgow, it is not uncommon to see people at bus stops get so pissed off with bus drivers refusing to stop that they stop the next bus by walking into the middle of the road and blocking its path.

  • If I am outside the vehicle in heavy rain, I do not wish the driver to refuse to let me in, just for their own amusement.

  • I do not wish the driver to lock me in the vehicle while he leaves to use a phonebox or toilet or do some shopping.

  • I don't want anyone to kick me in the back of the head.

  • I do not wish the driver to take a long alternative route for no apparent reason and refuse to tell me or any other passenger how long it's likely to take.

At the moment, the method of transport that meets these requirements is my car.


Anonymous said...

Would you mind if I copy your list to send to Mr Livingston down here in London ? As he's always saying he'd like to improve public transport but only seems to be able to put his name and face on all the advertisements saying how wonderful he is.

A few additions:

* I'd like to be able to stand at a bus stop without some moron blowing dope into my sons face.

* I'd like to sit at the back of the bus without some other moron lighting up a cigarette in front of my son, or at least someone actually enforcing the £1000 penalty for a change.

* I'd like to be able to not have to explain what FUCK ME IN THE ASS means to my son when he reads it in magic marker in 6" high letters across the back of the seat in front of us.

* I'd like to be able to get the only spare seat near the back of the bus without the bunch of schoolchildren around it thinking it is their "turf" and any invader needs to be routinely mocked and ridiculed the entire journey.

* When I apologise for brushing against another passenger's foot whilst sitting down, I'd rather he not regale me with how expensive his trainers are, how big and sharp the knife in his pocket is and how much it is going to hurt when he sticks it up my bottom.

Stephen West said...

When I worked in the West End I had to take public transport to work, because our office only got two of the eight parking places that existed in the entire building, and I was not senior enough to rate one of them. I stopped using the tube quite quickly, because my latent claustrophobia went so rampant that one day, after letting the fifth train go by because it was "too full", I realised that I wouldn't be using the tube anymore, left the station and took a bus. I came to some kind of acceptance of the bus, using the commute to listen to music or read, while suffering some or all of the indignities listed above on reasonably seldom occasions only. But I still used my car for everything else. Going shopping by bus must be a singular nightmare that I refuse to subject myself to. And most other non-work related travelling would simply be far too time consuming if undertaken by public transport. If avoidance of time-wasting and inconvenience is a class-superiority hangup then I guess I'm guilty.

But at least I don't dress up my prejudices in class warfare clothing, and I don't want to force everybody to conform to my lifestyle. If Mr Spacejack and Mr Livingstone wish to feel virtuous by using public transport, I have no problem with that. But let me make the choices that make the most sense to me, and don't try to force me to conform to your idea of proper behaviour.

Gary said...

Can I add a couple?

* I do not want to sit next to a recently released mental patient, a hilarious "character" or a demented chatterer.

* I do not want to hear bad music played very loudly through cheap earphones.

* I would like to be legally allowed to slap annoying children. Repeatedly, if necessary, or if I'm just in a bad mood.

* I would like to alight from the vehicle within 300 miles of my actual destination.

* I would like the vehicle to turn up on time, rather than shooting past at 400mph ten minutes before its scheduled arrival. It would be nice if the timetables weren't entirely fictional, too, and if "every 15 minutes" didn't mean "every 2 hours, assuming you can catch the driver's eye when he tries to speed past you".

* I would like the vehicle to switch the light on. The one behind the panel that tells you what bus it is. Oh, and I'd like the number to be the correct number, so I don't flag down the "correct" vehicle only to discover that it's going to Guatemala.

* When the vehicle says "exact fare only", the drivers should be aware of what the exact fare is rather than relying on the random number generator they currently use.

* I would like to travel without the constant jabbing of someone's elbow in my stomach.

* I would like to sit in a seat that hasn't been designed to aggravate back problems. On a related note, it'd be nice if the vehicle containing said seats didn't crash over kerbstones at 30mph, launching me into the air and smashing my very knackered spine hard onto thinly upholstered formica.