As any of you who follow me on Twitter will know already, public transport is a subject close to my heart. You may perhaps recall the many times I have come close to delivering a hearty slap to a loud mobile phone user or you may remember the unfortunate occasions when a particularly smelly crisp eater nearly got his comeuppance... The whole public transport thing fills me with uncharacteristic train rage. It is only a matter of time before I pull a Michael Douglas and do something rash like throwing twenty mobile phones out of the emergency exit. Or I'll finally pull that ruddy cord that has a £50 fine for misuse....
But even the idiot who can't text without a series of slow and painful water torture beeps pales into a category of insignificant annoyance compared to the real menace of public transport....the first class train compartment.....
Nothing, just about nothing annoys me more than this antiquated anachronistic example of elitism and pretence. Possibly - if people really really feel the need to spend ghastly amounts of money to be segregated from the rest of us - possibly we should find them a broom cupboard or a spare loo and shove them in there. But we don't. We give them 50% capacity of the train. Yes that smug middle class double chinned chap pretending to read the Telegraph has half the train to himself. Admittedly he is probably fool enough to have paid an obscene for the dubious advantages of a first class seat. But what about you and me? Were our tickets free? I'll tell you for a fact, mine wasn't. I've paid £200 this month for the privilege of daily travel to the next stop on the line. You would think that would grant me the right of a seat? But no, more often than not I end up standing or squatting in that annoying alcove next to the buffet car where everyone tramples on you as they push past to buy an overpriced stale sandwich.
Now as far as a plump middle aged witch goes, I'm in good health. I will happily give up my seat for the elderly, the infirm, the pregnant or the disabled. I have no issue at all in letting these good people have a seat before me. What I do have an issue with is paying a pretty stupid amount of money for a train seat and then having to stand up despite the fact that there are free seats on the same train.
So why are rail companies doing nothing about it? Why on my six coach train are three coaches packed to overflowing and the other three have sixteen occupants between them? (yes, I walked through and counted). Why do we allow the railway operators to take huge sums of money off us and then force us to sit in piles of discarded chewing gum next to their badly ventilated chemical toilets (Virgin - your toilets are the worst, they stink. Get it sorted Branson.)
Why in this modern age of equality are we content to allow this class segregation to continue. And why why why are we happy to pay through the nose for a train ticket and then meekly sit on the floor for the duration of the journey?
Well I am not doing it any more. From today I am standing up for myself and I urge you all to do the same. If you can't get a seat (not even the seat next to the teenager playing loud rock music and ignoring your increasingly violent gesticulation to move his bag, and probably feet, off the chair next to him) you need to calmly walk into first class, plonk your bottom on the nearest comfy chair (don't drink the complementary tea, we're not freeloading here) and enjoy your journey in a seated position. And if anyone challenges your right to be there, point out if they had bothered to provide people paying 200 a month to travel on their services with the seat they had paid for, we would have left first class to the Telegraph readers and stayed in standard where the tea might not be free and our noses may still be assailed by the overpowering stench of Branson's toilets but at the very least our clothes would be free of chewing gum and we would have escaped being squashed by the buffet car visitors. On balance that would seem as much as we could dare hope for with the way things are with trains at the moment.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1391867 (DavidMau)
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