The best thing about commuting is the eccentrics. They come out in force. It is possible the proportion of eccentrics amongst commuters is no different from elsewhere, but I'll tell you what, every day I see commuting eccentrics exhibit their stuff in true style. Before I continue, some kind of disclaimer is necessary. Shouldn't I be leaving these people alone, and mind my own business? Am I being cruel? Nah, when you see the same people every day for weeks, months, years, we all watch each other with a kind of weird commuter familiarity. And besides, there's probably some guy writing about me now ("some gimp keeps watching me, grinning as though he is writing a blog entry about me in his mind...").
Take the M&S guy. Every morning I seem him stuffing his face with M&S food (it's not just food, it's…). The little fruit salads in plastic boxes, the über-expensive little smoothies, the packets of miniature croissants. Every evening I seem him on the way home, scoffing on a bag of M&S goodies. The little pasta dishes in plastic boxes, the über-expensive little packets of nuts and crisps. Big deal, you say, what's your problem with that? No problem at all, I guess I'm just a bit freaked about by the intensity and the maths. That must be a fifty-squid-a-week habit (excluding lunch). Having said that, it's not just food, it's M&S food…
Waiting for the Brighton train home I always see the same two gentlemen. They stand chatting like old buddies until the train pulls in. As the train grinds to a halt, one gentleman stays exactly where he is, and the other gentleman scurries 20 feet up the platform and gets in the next carriage. This happens every day without fail. I can't quite work it out. Perhaps they aren't really buddies at all, and they are colleagues just "being polite" before giving each other space. It could be a simple matter of routine - before they knew each other they used these particular carriages. Perhaps the gain of their chosen carriages (placing them marginally closer to their own station's exit point) far out ways the pleasure of each other's company. Perhaps we'll never know, but if anyone has any other suggestions then please send them my way.
And then there is the chap in the plush grey suit. I haven't seen him in a while, but I used to see him a couple of days a week on the way home. I would arrive on the platform and there he'd be, waiting for our train, always dressed in a plush grey suit. I would head up the platform, and get in the rear carriage when the train arrived. As the train pulled away he would enter my carriage from the previous one, always looking a bit frantic, and then take a seat in my carriage. This happened so often that once I actually waited long enough on the platform to watch him get in to the first carriage, before he entered my rear carriage as usual. It's just so random! Maybe he was always waiting for a colleague or friend down that end of the platform, and when they didn't show he would head up the train. Maybe he just enjoyed the march up the train. Most likely it is just an elaborate conspiracy to confuse me.
And last but not least, the "Boots lady". For a while I had a connection at Gatwick Airport, and every morning I saw this lady alight from my train and head into Boots (just to clear my name, I would see her heading to and from Boots because I would usually be on my way to get a coffee). I assumed it was her lunch, and thought nothing of it. Then one day I was shopping in (another) Boots during my lunch break, and there she was - she worked at Boots! A mystery.
And after all that, I'll leave these people alone.