Commuting: the game

Unfortunately there is a prominent “belt tightening” in Portugal, and not due to nutritional needs. The number of commuters, especially in the middle of the month, is increasing slightly. At first you don’t notice, but then there’s this feeling that the train/tube is shrinking, becoming a tighter and crowded space. To make yourself comfortable in this environment it takes some preparation, or rather warm up, because commuting is a x-game. Beware, rookies, for if you are not aware of the rules and players, you’ll be eaten alive or worst still, forgotten and injured in the train/tube platform (most likely, on the wrong stop).

Hopping on: it’s important you take your time hopping on, especially when the door closing alarm begins, because this will lead to some frustration and to some elbowing and shoving around. Even though it’s quite uncomfortable to be pushed, you cannot really complain, because the person behind you is respecting the queue. And the push you feel, it’s just a bit of encouragement, so don’t be dismayed by it.

This brings us to the x-gamers profiles:

a) The expert: usually over 40 he/she has at least 20 years of experience in commuting. The expert will stand, with astounding accuracy, exactly in front of the door, even before the bus/train/tube arrives. This x-gamer will also manage to get in just in a matter of seconds, without disrupting the queue or giving the chance for the passengers to alight. The expert x-gamer will be the first to hop on and to hop of. Sometimes the expert will give fellow commuters a bit of “encouragement” too, to achieve his/her flawless performance.

b) The expert wannabe: lacks the finesse of the real expert, but takes the game with the same amount of seriousness. The commuting manners, however leaves a lot to desire… There will be a bit more pushing around and less politeness. Speed is all that matters. The expert wannabe will be responsible for the alighting stampede. Even if you don’t want to hop off on that particular stop, you’ll be pushed out by the stampede. It takes seconds. When it comes to sitting, he/she will spot a vacant seat and aim at it at light speed.

c) The pole dancer: usually females, these commuters will, instead of holding the handle on the seats or the ones hanging from the ceiling, hold to pole. More than holding, she will be hugging it. Since the poles are usually right in front of the doors, in order to avoid being pushed by other passengers, she will dodge passengers turning to one side or the other, but never letting go of the pole. More, the intellectual pole dancer, will do this while reading a neatly folded newspaper or a thick book. During the exiting stampede she will be an uncomfortable obstacle and won’t be able to avoid the shoving and pushing.

d) The bouncer: like night clubs bouncers, he takes his task very seriously. He will, quite inconveniently, stand in front of the door conditioning entrances and exits. It doesn’t matter how packed the train/tube is he won’t leave his spot, until he arrives at his stop.

e) The media manager: this commuter will bring his/own newspaper and leave it on the seat before alighting, for the next passenger. The experienced media manager will swap his/her newspaper with the one left behind by the former passenger. Unfortunately for fellow commuters, the media manager is too engrossed in the reading to realize that he/she is flipping the pages like a fan and stroking the other passengers with it. He/she will not acknowledge as well that his elbows are pushing the passenger next to him/her away from the seat.

f) The DJ: forget about readable information, it’s all about your mp3 player and your earphones. To do it correctly, the music must be loud enough for the other passengers to listen to it, or just be upset by the constant bzzt bzzt bzzzt. The DJ will make you wonder what are the earphones really for. Of course, this commuter will be in another dimension and most likely will miss his/her exit. Don’t sit near them, you’ll be pushed.

The teenager DJ will be accompanied by a huge backpack. Unaware how big the bag is it will knock fellow passengers over, like a bowling ball.

g) The kidney puncher bag: only females. They will have trendy, huge bags, usually rectangular shaped. These bags will be hanging from one of the shoulders, and punch mercilessly right on your kidneys. The bag puncher will be completely oblivious of this, as well as that her bag is opened.

h) The grocery shopper: usually over 50, these commuters will carry with them, preferably at rush hour, huge bags filled with groceries. Fellow commuters will be sympathetic and give groceries shoppers’ their seat. If you are seating next to them, you have to smile and nod politely while your knees are being savagely kicked by the bags. If by any chance you alight before grocery shopper, most likely you’ll trip on the bags, lose your balance, and find yourself grabbing some stranger’s arm, before seeing the floor up and close. The expert grocery shopper will have wonderful pole dancer skills. Seating or standing, either way, he/she will be a nuisance.

The trick to survive commuting and win at this x-game is to recognize what type of fellow commuters you are facing and dodge them elegantly.


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