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Poetic Public Transportation

I have written this ode about etiquette on public transport, inspired today by the man-boy who spent all train journey on his mobile phone debating with his mate the various merits of sending a picture of his winky (not the term he used!) to a woman he barely knew…

Perhaps you might like to feature it on the site? It’s written from a Londoner’s perspective, but the principles am sure apply the world over…

Kind regards,  Sarah

Commuting Instructions

If you – like me – commute each and every day,
Whether by bus, train, or tube (the subway),
Your faith in humanity may have now started to wane,
Let’s all follow the below to save on commuting pain…

First thing – don’t make us commuters any more later,
Stand on the RIGHT side of the escalator,
By which I mean “right hand” but also “correct”,
Please do not block the way by standing on the left!

If your travel card doesn’t work, don’t keep just trying,
Go see the station staff – you are causing a line!
And if you failed to top up, don’t blame it on them,
I’ve seen this type of staff abuse time and again…

Don’t travel in rush hour when in a large tourist group,
Packing out overfull carriages at just one fell swoop,
First thing in morning, don’t shriek as loud as you do,
Argentinians, Brazilians – I am looking at you…

And please do not dawdle – it’s not on to walk slow,
City-dwellers have places we all need to go,
So get off your phone please and pick up the pace,
We are all rats here, so just get into the race!!

When more passengers get on, please just give a smile,
And make room by moving further on down the aisle,
And by the same token, if the train’s full – it’s full!
Don’t delay us all by trying the doors open to pull…

And here another point I can’t emphasise more,
For God’s sake do NOT lean against the tube doors!
You’ll annoy the driver and the passengers too,
Because when you do this, the train cannot move!!!!

And yet another thing that I can’t stress enough,
If a pregnant lady gets on – well, for you that’s just tough,
Just give up your seat – it’s the right thing to do!
The same goes for the old and the handicapped too…

Teenagers especially – please listen when I say,
Great you’ve got those new ‘Beat’ headphones by Dr Dre,
But the rest of us don’t all share your musical taste,
Don’t want to hear your bass blaring all over the place!

And while on the subject of unwarranted noise,
Nobody else much likes the sound of your voice,
A very quick phone call’s permitted – yes, that is alright,
But no-one cares what you’re eating for dinner tonight…

If you’ve brought kids on the tube, then I do sympathise,
Well, at least I do until one of them cries,
And you just do nothing except chat to your mate,
Unaware that their screaming is now starting to grate…

Don’t eat smelly food and definitely do NOT speak,
To strangers with whom you uninvited eye contact seek,
Best use deodorant when your armpits are in someone’s face,
Remember that we are in “public” and not “private “space!

Now, I know public transport’s not just mine to dictate,
But if we could all do just that, it would be really great,
Can’t prevent signals failures, overcrowding, delays,
But we’d all at least have a more bearable time on the way…


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • B November 24, 2014, 2:34 am

    I am not impressed by the racist accusations towards South Americans.

    And I am depressed that someone has so much energy to whinge on and on about every tiny little gripe travelling by Tube can provide, most of which are so minor, it’s a joke. The Tube has its irritations but you seriously need to get some perspective. How about ‘don’t leave your bags unattended because they will evacuate the station on terrorist alert’? Don’t cram onto the platform because people have fallen onto the line and been electrocuted? Or ‘don’t try having a crafty smoke, that killed over 30 people at Kings Cross’?

    Dawdling is not an etiquette offence. However busy and important you seem to think you are.

    • JO November 24, 2014, 9:02 am

      That stuck out at me as well. Not OK.

    • Weaver November 24, 2014, 10:31 am

      I agree with you on the whole, B. I lived, studied, worked and commuted in London for eight years and while, sure, it’s annoying having tourists dawdle in front of you, the tube is meant for everybody, not just people trying to get to work. And I have absolutely no idea where that nasty dig at Argentinians and Brazilians came from! In my experience the only really obnoxious noise offenders are some groups of (British) football fans.

      • DCGirl November 24, 2014, 12:05 pm

        The OP may be trying to point out that there are cultural differences around what’s an acceptable volume for public conversation, but doing so in a very awkward manner.

    • Miss-E November 24, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Yeah I’m with you, B. Some people can’t help if they walk slowly. And sometimes big groups have places to be. I went on a cruise once with a whole bunch of friends, we had to be at the boat by 8 am and, as city dwellers, had to take public transport to get there, suitcases and all. We got a lot of dark looks and we felt bad but we paid just like everyone else and we had somewhere to be!

    • crella November 24, 2014, 6:58 pm

      I think it’s a cultural difference, not racism. We have large groups of Brazilians in Japan and they just talk louder and are more ebullient in public than the Japanese (and a lot of Americans) so it stands out, it’s nothing bad, just noticeable. They seem pretty happy to me! Some people may be annoyed at the loudness though.

      • hinome November 25, 2014, 5:28 am

        I believe it’s more to do with the dynamics of a specific group and is entirely independent from culture and ethnicity. A bunch of people may individually be quiet bordering on meek, yet shout down the walls of Jericho (both biblical location and metal band) when they’re all together. I see it at my library every day with student learning groups.

  • hinome November 24, 2014, 4:17 am

    Wow, that “poem” comes across as incredibly grumpy. You do have some points there but the rest is just entitled and mean-spirited…

  • Green123 November 24, 2014, 8:11 am

    Love it! The bit about the Dr Dre. Beats headphones made me laugh – I’m sure they’re sold to not ‘leak’ noise but they seem to be the WORST for the tss tss tss tss noise!

  • The Elf November 24, 2014, 8:17 am

    I love it!

  • Wendy B. November 24, 2014, 9:18 am

    I thought that was fun and much of it tongue-in-cheek while still on point.

    Poetry is a good way to vent…and if you can’t be honest, what’s the point of writing poetry to begin with.

  • Jenny November 24, 2014, 9:28 am

    I can see the author’s side on several points, such as people walking slowly while those behind them are in a time crunch, loud passengers who don’t realize the entire car can hear every intimate detail of their lives, and able-bodied folks who refuse to give up their seat to someone who needs it more. However, I feel the poet veered too much towards sarcastic wit when she might have done better with a plain list of tube/metro/subway etiquette. Lumping one or two nationalities into the noisy category is unfair. I have encountered loud children, teens, and adults of all backgrounds, and have likewise seen quiet ones of the same backgrounds as well. The poetry is nice overall and I hope you continue honing your writing skills.

    • Linda November 24, 2014, 11:52 am

      I am disabled and walk with a cane. I have one speed….slow. Not my fault if someone behind me is in a hurry; I’m walking at the only pace I can. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use public transportation, nor does it make me any less important than those hurrying. A lot of assumptions were made in this poem.

      • Lera99 November 24, 2014, 5:53 pm

        It is fine if you walk slowly.

        But since you know you walk slowly, you should walk on the right hand side so faster walkers can pass you on the left.

        The problem comes when people insist on blocking the whole path and walking slow creating a bottleneck for everyone else.

    • EchoGirl November 24, 2014, 2:02 pm

      You also have to be careful with talking about able-bodied people not giving up their seats because it’s not always possible to tell at a glance who’s able-bodied and who’s not. I recently injured my shoulder in such a way that it temporarily limited my use of both arms, which meant I couldn’t really stand up on the bus (no trains in this city) because I couldn’t use the straps to hold myself up, which means I would have likely fallen on somebody, but there was no outward sign of this issue. I didn’t end up in this situation, but I was constantly worried about what would happen if someone got on the bus who needed a seat. People always seem to target young-looking people (I’m in my 20s but can pass for a high schooler) because of the assumption that a. teens are lazy and b. teens don’t have invisible disabilities that prevent them from standing,

      • Jenny November 25, 2014, 8:19 am

        Quite true, Linda and EchoGirl. I should have clarified my point and not been so vague. It’s never good to assume someone is healthy or unhealthy, you don’t know them nor their circumstances. Not everyone has an obvious visual cue, such as a cane. I was recalling instances of folks so absorbed in their conversations that they would be 3 or 4 across and sometimes would simply stop to talk while blocking the entire path. Also, I admit I’m guilty of judging someone who runs onto the car and flops into a seat. If I see someone capable of running, I assume they’re also capable of standing. Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of making snap judgements.

        • EchoGirl December 10, 2014, 4:05 pm

          To be fair, it wasn’t until the shoulder injury that I realized how much of standing on a bus involves not only being able to use legs but also being able to use arms. And no, I don’t believe that every person who doesn’t give up their seat has some kind of invisible disability, but I do know that it’s sometimes impossible to tell on a case-by-case basis which person does and which person doesn’t, so I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt because there might be ten people who can give up their seats and one who can’t, but from the outside looking in, I can’t tell who is the ten and who is the one.

  • burgerking November 24, 2014, 9:34 am

    I went on a nice wagon ride in an orchard this fall with my family. A teenage gurl, sitting with her parents proceeds to get on her cell to return a call. She’s LOUD and defensive on the call. Her parents absolutely didn’t act like there was anything wrong. Ruined it for all of us.

  • crebj November 24, 2014, 10:03 am

    “Any more later”? Perhaps you meant “any more late.” Argentinians, Brazilians, and others who learned English as a second language, what would you have written?

    • Anon November 24, 2014, 10:21 am

      But then it wouldn’t rhyme – I think that’s called artistic license.

      Agree with your sentiment though.

      • another Laura November 24, 2014, 1:01 pm

        Then “be any later.” would rhyme, be grammatically correct, and fit the metre better.

      • crebj November 24, 2014, 1:41 pm

        I’d say that was artistic learner’s permit! Rewrite: more late/escalate, or any later/escalator. Preferable, I think, to showing poor grammar along with unattractive manners. My .02.

      • Aleko November 24, 2014, 1:46 pm

        On the other hand, it already doesn’t scan – and that’s not called artistic licence but pure tin-earedness. The OP may find loud shrieking annoying; some of us find being subjected to ‘verse’ that limps as painfully as this just as bad.

        Remember, folks, just because it has a rhyme at the end doesn’t make it poetry; it has to have rhythm too!

  • AthenaC November 24, 2014, 11:14 am

    “Gee that’s so strange that someone has the energy to whine about all this.”

    It’s just precious how any statement of displeasure, no matter how legitimate, is often automatically dismissed as “whining.”

    Also, commuting is basically dead time. Some of us (like the OP apparently) don’t just turn our brains off for the commute; it is the perfect time for writing silly poetry or parody versions of popular songs.

    For the record, OP, I thought it was funny!

  • gellchom November 24, 2014, 12:32 pm

    You lost me, too, with singling out ethnic groups and with the comment about “smelly food,” which all too often seems to mean “food eaten by people who are not like me.”

    I agree that creative writing is an excellent outlet!

    • crella November 24, 2014, 6:54 pm

      Anything with garlic can be ‘smelly’ regardless of where the food originates, lots of deli items, even a Cinnabon in a small space has a strong smell. We don’t know what smelly food was being pointed out.

    • CW November 24, 2014, 7:28 pm

      I’m took the “smelly food” more as, “things I wouldn’t microwave in a small office because it has a strong scent that lingers forever. Like salmon. Tastes good, but my goodness, heat it up in a small space, it’s not terribly pleasant. I love Indian food, but it has a strong smell and not everyone likes the smell of curry. Kimchi or sauerkraut too. I mean, who really enjoys the smell of fermented cabbage?

    • Lex November 24, 2014, 8:17 pm

      I agree about singling out the ethnic groups, but in this instance I interpreted “smelly food” as “odor-emitting food”… as in any food that can be smelled from a distance. For example I think it’s fine to eat a granola bar on public transport, but a fish sandwich, bacon, chicken nuggets, tuna, onions, or any other food that can be smelled from a distance (even if it’s not necessarily a bad smell) is intrusive in a confined space.

      At least I hope this is the author’s intention… I have heard people refer to other cultures’ foods as “smelly” as in foul-smelling, which I think is unfortunate and insensitive.

      • Enna November 26, 2014, 5:59 am

        I have got Diabetes and sometimes I have to have a snack on the train/bus if my blood sugar is low. If it is a really long journey I will have to eat lunch/dinner. I will eat what I want and except that others will eat what they want. I am a vegetarian, does it bother me if I see or smell someone’s meaty dish? No not at all.

  • lnelson1218 November 24, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Personally I thought it hit the nail on the head. Having used for many years both the T in Boston and the Metro in DC many things do ring true and so many have no concept of common courtesy.

    Leaning on the doors on the DC Metro have caused them to jam which results in the Metro having to take that train out of service. Sorry, that is a legitimate complaint. Should a manager be seriously talking about an upcoming disciplinary hearing for an employee in a public place? While some gossip might be funny, however if you want what happened in Vegas to stay in Vegas don’t have a loud conversation on the T back in Boston.

    I don’t care if you are speaking a foreign language as long as you aren’t screaming at the top of your lungs.

  • Charliesmum November 24, 2014, 1:27 pm

    We were in London a couple of years ago and I told my (Then 15 year old) son the rule about where to stand on the esclator. He STILL stands to the right, even though it’s not quite the ‘rule’ in the US. 🙂

    • Mary November 24, 2014, 4:04 pm

      I’m pretty sure this is a rule in the United States also. Whenever I’ve ridden the Metro in Washington DC, going up and down the escalators, stand to the right, walkers to the left. Also at MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul airport) they have moving walkways. They are marked showing that anyone who plans on standing should stay to the right and those walking should be on the left.

      I can’t remember from my trip to London over 14 years ago. Is the rule stand to the right, walk on the left? I would be thinking it would be the opposite, just like driving on the left.

      • Louise November 25, 2014, 5:18 am

        Yes, it’s stand on the right, walk on the left with escalators. The general rule when walking anywhere/using stairs on the underground is to keep left, but unfortunately people aren’t as good at following that one!

      • Vermin8 November 25, 2014, 7:29 am

        I think this is a rule in larger cities in the US but not in smaller areas. The bad thing is that there are so many people in these large urban areas (transplants or visitors) that they often break the rule because they don’t know it. Most people I know will say ‘excuse me” to prompt them to move the the right.

        I live in the DC area and work in a large office building with escalators and if I come up on the left side, anyone who is standing on the left usually moves before I have to ask.
        I take the metro occasionally and it can be more of an issue there, especially at rush hour.

        I’m from a much smaller area and most escalators are in shopping malls – no one moves over and will get irritated if you ask. It just seems to be total confusion as to why someone would want to save a couple minutes by walking instead of riding the escalator.

    • Kate November 25, 2014, 4:39 am

      The ‘rule’ here in Australia is stand to the left, pass on the right. My parents drummed that into me every time we caught public transport when I was a kid!

  • Robin November 24, 2014, 1:29 pm

    Sounds exactly like the Long Island a Railroad/NYC Subway ride I know and hate.

    Yes, it is rude to dawdle, if you’re blocking traffic. Either walk or move to the side!

  • Fantod November 24, 2014, 1:34 pm

    Tube advice doggerel’s been done: ‘Billy Brown of London Town’ supplied more than enough during the war.
    He was also notoriously unpopular, and perhaps *that* is a more valuable lesson.

  • Lolina November 24, 2014, 1:37 pm

    I live in an area where there isn’t a ‘tube’ or subway, or reliable bus service….but I do understand the comment about Brazilians….when in Disneyworld several years ago we had (mostly) no problems with crowds – with the exception of Brazilians. Why did I know they were Brazilians? They were all wearing shirts with logos in the Brazilians colors and the groups had a leader carrying an Brazilian flag….there were many groups like this of different nationalities throughout the park, but we never were pushed and shoved as badly as when the Brazilian groups came through.
    My husband and I each held the hand of one of our boys when the groups came by, and we tried to move to the side. Multiple times the people in the Brazilian groups would attempt to break contact with our boys by walking in between us (parent and child), and pulling our hands apart!!! Really?!?! you couldn’t step 1 pace to the side and go around?? (remember, I would try to get to the side of the group whenever possible). I didn’t know what to make of this until our bus driver advised us the one group he really didn’t like to transport were the Brazilians…they would yell and scream on the bus and smoke (even though there were signs advising “no smoking”), and when he would try to tell them to stop, they would say “No Englaish” even though the had just been yelling the language!

    Sorry if the majority of Brazilians are not like that…but your country did NOT represent well during that week!

    • Lex November 24, 2014, 8:36 pm

      I have visited multiple cities in Brazil, and have never experienced any behavior like this. I think it’s dangerous to stereotype an entire country based on the bad behavior of a couple specific tourist groups. Imagine the impressions people could form of America if they just looked at how some of our tourists behave… *shudder*.

      • Hollyhock November 25, 2014, 2:20 pm

        I have actually lived in Brasil and found most Brasileiros to be far more cosmopolitan, couth and mannerly than many of my fellow citizens here. I suppose there are louts of every nationality but no need to perpetuate broad stereotypes.

  • Sel November 24, 2014, 4:39 pm

    Daily commuter from Sydney, Australia here, and I grinned.

    Although I take the point made by several commenters that LOUDNESS is not restricted by race or nationality or age or…really, anything that can be easily identified. (Actually, my experience is that white people are most likely to be obnoxious and oblivious in public spaces.) And, no, the scansion isn’t perfect, but eh. It’s not like it’s a national poetry comp or something.

  • Tex Carol November 24, 2014, 5:05 pm

    I thought the OP was quite clever and was surprised by the angry responses. While most of us aren’t annoyed by all of these things all of the time, some of us are most certainly annoyed by some of these actions some of the time! Get a sense of humor, folks!

  • OP November 25, 2014, 4:54 am

    Wow – some mixed reactions here!

    I think the words some of you are looking for are “tongue-in-cheek” and “mock exasperation” (admittedly mingled with real exasperation!). Freely admit I am a bit jaded by several years’ worth of 2 hour commuting each day, and a little rant here or there makes me feel a bit better about it – no real effort involved (I write a lot of poetry, particularly on the train!), but thanks for the feedback about that one line that didn’t quite work outside of my own head (though I do challenge a few of the commentators to do better – Aleko…? 😉 ).

    No apologies for the Argentinian comments, and no it’s not racist to object to large summer camps sporting Tshirts with the Argentinian (or otherwise) flags singing and clapping at top volume when most of the carriage hasn’t even woken up yet. Of course lary Brits are just as bad, and I hate them too.

    Likewise, of course if you have a disability, walking slower is fine (but keep to the left!) – the comment about dawdling refers to people on their phones and otherwise oblivious to the fact they are holding everyone up. Same if you are not able to get up for a person who might seem more obviously in need of a seat – but I refuse to believe every single person in a carriage is suffering from a hidden disability while the ready-to-pop pregnant lady is left standing… And yes I do give up my seat, if I have one!

    Smelly food does indeed refer to any food that wouldn’t pass the office microwave test – I love most strong-smelling foods (tuna, salmon, curry etc), but not on the tube.

    Glad some of you enjoyed it at any rate! 🙂

    • Vermin8 November 25, 2014, 12:30 pm

      I certainly did. I think those of us who do public transportation were more amused since we can relate.

  • Enna November 26, 2014, 6:11 am

    OP, I do agree with some points that you make such as people blocking up the escolator – that is inconsideate and dangerous. Just as leaning against doors or blocking up walkways is. If your travel card isn’t working trying it 20 times is not on as it blocks up a turnmil and abusing staff is NOT on.

    I’ve never found it offensive for people to eat on the bus/train. Provided they don’t make a mess. I have type one Diabetes and have to eat on the trian/bus at times. If I am getting a veggie burger meal deal from Burger King I see nothing wrong with that. Sometimes people eat diffrenet things that might be made of garlic or onions but it’s never bothered me. Like I said so long as they don’t make a mess – always put rubbish in the bin. There aren’t always bins around but the cleaners will often have bins on their trollies. In my expiernce they have never told me “no” when I ask if I can put my rubbish in their bin – makes their job easier.

    Noisey passangers or passangers giving you unwanted attention isn’t on. People should be respectful to others and not make lots of noise or talk to you if you don’t want them to. But tourist groups sometimes have to catch trains/buses during the rush hour – same with school children on a school trip.

  • Enna November 26, 2014, 6:13 am

    P.S as for the mess thing – I was on the bus once and a teenager wanted to get on the bus with a can of coke. The bus driver said to him, “your drink could spill and make a mess, I can wait for you to finish it or you could put it in the bin”. He listened to her and finished his drink in a couple of gulps and put it the can in the bin. Everyone happy.

  • Mabel November 26, 2014, 7:52 pm

    This made me smile. Those who are picking at it obviously don’t get English humor. *or humour, as the case may be*