On Long Commutes and Funny YouTube Videos
It usually takes me between five and seven hours to get to the city where I work. Nine, if I’m particularly unlucky. It’s not the worst commute in the planet but it is, by any standards, a shitty commute.
If you have been following my daily posts (shh, let’s pretend you have!), you probably knew this already. I have mentioned my shitty commute no less than two times in the past five days. That is to be expected, of course. The only fun part of doing a shitty commute is that I get to moan about it. Small miseries deserve to be shared.
I love telling people about the baritone snore of the man who sat in front of me. The lady who hid a bottle of vodka inside a Tesco bag and downed at least half of it during the trip. The geological pressure of a tall woman’s knees against the back of my seat, slowly digging a hole through my spine. I take my time describing everything in detail so that whoever pays attention can feel as miserable as I did.
I have noticed, however, that my efforts are wasted. No one pays any attention at all. Instead, they all wait impatiently to share their own tale. It seems to be a universal law: whenever you tell people you do a shitty commute, they’ll instantly ignore you and tell a story about a commute that is shittier than yours.
“You take a Megabus from to Manchester to Southampton? That’s nothing! My dad used to go from Newcastle to Portsmouth. And he had to drive!”
“I know a guy who lived right next to his office but took the wrong turn and travelled around the world to get to work. What a long commute that was!”
Suddenly no one cares about my tales of everyday suffering. I’m just one more story — the least impressive of them all.
I once spent my entire commute thinking about that. It was a five-hour train ride back to Manchester, after spending three days working in Southampton. I did mention my commute is really long, right? So yeah. Hours and hours pondering about this issue. How annoying it all was. How predictably rude people were. How those interactions kept repeating themselves with different friends in different scenarios, proving that the law was in fact universal.
It was then that I remembered another similar law, equally universal, which I had observed years before.
If you ever tried to show a funny YouTube video to a group of people, you know how it goes. They don’t watch it, do they? They can hardly disguise that they’re only waiting until they can show another video, and the video they’ll show, wow, that’s the funniest one. I've never bothered showing funny YouTube videos to anyone since I discovered this pattern of behaviour.
People suck. That was the first conclusion I reached after several hours of reflection.
I was still far from my destination, though. Sitting on the train with one more hour of travel left before I got home, I picked up my phone and decided I needed a funny YouTube video.
I chose "Tunak Tunak Tun", the one video that can cure all my existential woes. I know you are thinking of several funnier YouTube videos in this very second. It doesn’t matter. Tunak will always be my favourite. It never fails to make me smile.
Halfway through the video, however, I noticed I was getting strange looks from people around me. I thought there was food on my face, but then I realised I hadn’t connected my headphones properly. The entire carriage had been listening to Tunak. I blushed and smiled apologetically. Instead of smiling back, though, everyone kept looking at me with sombre, serious expressions. I could even sense a hint of fear in their eyes.
Then it hit me. Dear God. It was Tunak.
A bearded man with a turban singing in a foreign language. Balls of fire. Explosions. A meteor hitting the Earth. Not the most train-friendly entertainment in the current climate of terror paranoia in Britain. It didn’t help that I hadn’t shaved my beard in a while, either.
I’m glad no one called security. That would have been my worst nightmare: a funny YouTube video turning my shitty commute into a date with the British Transport Police.
It would have made for a nice story, yes, but no one would listen to it. Everyone would be busy thinking of even funnier YouTube videos, or even shittier commutes.