I’ve been studying at the University of Westminster for a little over a week now, and I can tell you one thing I didn’t know before: a two-hour commute is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice.
My daily journey from North-West Kent to North-West London has launched me headfirst into the everyday world of the commuter. Hello tired eyes and escalator queues; goodbye leg room and any semblance of personal space. I’ve so far avoided being that one inevitable tourist who can’t quite work the underground turnstiles, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s me who’s the cause of the commuter chagrin.
None of which, of course, is new. Men and women of London have been experiencing the unique pleasures of the daily commute since London existed. I’m sure the foibles of a businessman travelling to work in 1900 are the same as they are today. There will be have been people on the same train as me who have been moaning about the same things since before I was born, and I’m sure the same gripes will be being made long after I’ve gone. Maybe the hovercopter service won’t ever run on time. Maybe teleporting to work still won’t provide any room for your legs.
The point? All of these age-old gripes and groans are new to me. As someone who, until this week, has been far more likely to be fast asleep and happy come 8am than on a train and mildly annoyed, the commute isn’t an overly pleasant experience.
I should have known this would be the case. Enough people warned me. “Harrow campus? So you’re going to move into London? You’re not?! Ouch. Have fun with the commute.” I must have flippantly laughed along with that conversation about twenty times in the last few months. It’ll be fine, I thought. How bad can it be, an hour and a bit tops? Wrong, James. Very wrong.
There are upsides, of course. By the time I traipse into the newsroom (its official title, I’ve not decided to refer to everything with journalistic titles for the sake of it) at 10, I’ve already managed to read the newspaper back to front and listen to the best part of an album of my choice. Having made a two-hour journey by 10 in the morning has also given me some extra motivation to actually work.
All of which I should look on as positive aspects to an otherwise unenjoyable experience. I know. I just wish I didn’t have to get up at 8 and travel for two hours with people as tired and impatient as me to appreciate it. A world in which a postgrad course is delivered to my door sometime mid-afternoon would be ideal, but it doesn’t appear to be too forthcoming.
Until that day, then: here’s to the commute.