London Commuting Etiquette

I stand bleary-eyed at the bus stop this morning after a few too many drinks for a work night, I spy my bus approaching round the corner and position myself further down the street as I can see another bus coming from straight on will arrive just beforehand forcing my bus to pull up behind so I will be in prime position to board first.

As it does so, I am thrown to one side as a woman sporting a hairstyle reminiscent of a mop head from Fantasia, barges her way through to claim my pole position.   I grit my teeth but let this one ride, I am still second and it’s not as if we are going to be left behind, we’re all going to get on the bus.   But we are not moving, she is at the drivers window foraging in her bag for the bus fare whilst we are queue behind as each person further down the queue gets more exasperated with the person in front of them for not moving.   This goes on a while, and eventually she staggers down the aisle carrying her handbag and half the contents in her arms that she had to take out in her search for enough coins.

Bus Rule No. 1:    Have your change ready before you board a bus, or even better get an Oyster card like the rest fo us – it’s the 21st century, join us won’t you.

The bus had been a long time coming

I make my way to find a seat and the only one I see free is by the window but someone has sat on the seat on the aisle side.   I ask politely if they can move along, she doesn’t utter a word but just shifts her knees slightly to her left, this apparently creates a magical pathway where I can easily pass  to the seat, with enough room to spin around arms akimbo as if I were Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road.  In reality I have to struggle to manoeuvre myself through the back of the seat in front and her knees and then try to turn to be facing the right way to sit down without clocking the lady over the head with my rucksack (how I wish I could but I remembered my manners even in my drunken haze)   If  fix her with an icy stare though, that’ll teach her!

Bus Rule No 2:   Please stand up to allow people to sit down or leave their seat, it’s not as if you are velcroed in place

I glance casually around the bus as we set off towards Euston station, I spy the lady who took an ice age to find her bus fare sat at the front and she has pulled out a well used make up compact and liberally applies to her face, powder is wafting around her in a peachy cloud before she starts applying eye make up, I can see her reflection in her mirror as she shoddily attempts to layer blue eyeshadow despite the jarring rhythm of the bus, almost spearing her eye in the process any number of times.    Next the lippy comes out and that gets a few coats, I am imagining the lipstick smeared over her mouth as if  she were auditioning for a role in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Bus Rule No 3:   There is no bathroom on the bus so try getting up 5 minutes earlier so you can apply make up at home.  This applies to people cutting their nails on the bus too.

Like the lovechild of Worzel Gummidge and Baby Jane

The lady next to me gets off the bus, a devilish smile comes across me as she trips getting off the bus, falling prey to my hex.

A couple in their early twenties get on next and stand by the exit doors straight away as the bus moves off, they press the button to be let off at the next stop, which on this route is about 10 seconds away, honestly it is a 2 minute walk.   They get off the bus.   This isn’t a rule as such, but you are young and healthy why are you wasting £1.40 to wait for a bus, get on and off when you would have walked it in two minutes, it wasn’t even raining.

My other pet hate when traveling in London is people eating on public transport, actually its my biggest bug bear.  People are so hungry that they have to devour food on the bus or tube, again, why nit get up a bit earlier and eat at home or wait til you get into the office.   Some food may not smell but I still don;t want to be opposite you and see the contents of your food being minced up as you chew with your mouth open or be next to you and hear you chewing in my ear.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg and I am not talking the usual suspects like McDonald’s or KFC, though the smell of those makes me gag, but I have seen some very weird things being eaten.   For example, on the morning commute on the tube, someone opposite was tucking into their lunch, they must have ben really hungry to be eating that for breakfast, it was a spaghetti bolognese, they had their own fork and were spearing it into their lunchbox and dragging up huge forkfuls of pasta and sauce, and forcing it into their mouth, spaghetti hanging down their chi and sauce dripping on his shirt.  On a packed commuter train, but being London, people were oblivious or just doing their best to ignore him as he carried on with people paying no mind to it.

Another time on a packed bus after work, I was on the top deck on the back seat, a girl got on and ate a takeaway curry she had just bought, the smell of Chicken Tikka Masala filling the bus instantly.  My only question was why?  WHY?  You could not wait til you got home, or you have no takeaway nearer your house, or why couldn’t you eat in the restaurant to avoid having to use the bus as your dining table, this isn’t even fast food!  Fast food is designed to be portable and edible everywhere, well edible is a generous term for most fast food, but you get my point.  But a curry…a spaghetti bolognese… these are foods to be eaten at a table, with company, a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, with cutlery and a napkin, some naan or garlic bread to mop up the sauc, a meal to be savoured and enjoyed.

Public transport is a minefield, we have to contend with overcrowding, delays and weird passengers, is it any wonder everyone looks miserable and tourists first impression of Londoners is from the transport network, but give them a break, we are conditioned when travelling, once free of the constraints and back on terra firma we are a nice enough bunch.

I must now dust off my bike and cycle to work again, free from the chains of public transport, just me, the wind and the terrible London drivers, taxis performing illegal u-turns, bendy buses coming within an inch to knocking you off, other cyclists flouting the Highway Code, pedestrians running out between parked cars……

Leave a comment


  1. I think that we Londoners could do nothing else with our time but share stories of frustrating/weird/random tube/bus people! I completely agree on the eating thing, though. Or, something which gets me mad EVERY SINGLE DAY is people drinking a huge Starbucks coffee on the tube. Every jolt and every bump in the sardine-can-esque carriage bringing me ever close to being scalded/having my suit ruined. If people can’t wait until the office for a coffee, they really need help…

    Anyway, rant aside, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog 🙂

    • That’s why it’s better to cycle, people find it much harder to drink their coffee on a bike. People obviously have busy lives than some of us that they have to live out much of it in public. Many thanks for subscribing too, you are my first subscriber and as such you are awarded the ability to make funny faces at commuters with them being none the wiser

  2. This is so hilarious. With my move to London from the States in just a few days, this truly made me laugh. Thank you for the read. And if I ever experience someone clipping their nails in any form of public transit…I may have to reconsider this whole moving thing.

  3. You’re in for a rude awakening! Only kidding, we’re not that bad, good luck with your move!

  4. laughing in Canada

     /  September 1, 2011

    Okay, being this is my third comment, I think I will have to give in and subscribe! OMG your sardonic wit cracks me up! Very much enjoying your blog 😉


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