The guy next to me on the train is really, really irritating me. Firstly, he's too big for the seat, so I am perched right on the edge of mine, twisted, uncomfortable and with an aching back. Sticking out into the aisle, I keep getting knocked by traipsers (more on them later).
Asking him to "move up" is out of the question because he can't. Moving is also out of the question because the train is full. I could stand, I suppose, but I'm not quite ready to make that sacrifice. Besides, what would I write about if I did that?
Secondly, he's playing his music so loud that I can hear it over my own. Before anyone suggests that it could be because my music is so loud, it isn't. My music is very quiet. For me to be able to hear his music through my music, my headphones and his headphones, it has to be pretty damn loud. If I played mine at that volume my ears would bleed over my nice white shirt.
Thirdly, he keeps yawning so loudly that I can hear it over my music, his music, and the sound of the train.
Fourthly, he's reading The Times, which irritates me. To be fair on him, that's not really his fault. The main reason for my (irrational?) irritation is Salman Rushdie, who sometimes writes in The Times and drives me crazy. I'll stop being harsh on The Times, it's not that bad, and Hugo Rifkind is a genius.
I guess it could be worse, he could be reading the Daily Mail ("that sulphurous organ of Satan", as Rod Liddle put it), or even The Guardian. If that was the case, I would have to pull out a pair of scissors...
I have a recurring dream when I go round all the newsagents with a pair of scissors, cutting out articles from The Guardian, removing them before they can be read. Ha, I tease you, I don't really have that dream.
But gosh it would be a nice dream to have. Actually, it is mainly Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot that I have issues with, but more of that another time.
I'm clearly a pleasant, patient type of chap, and certainly not easily irritated. But here are a few ways you can irritate me on the train, should you wish to.
1. Cut right through vast swathes of empty seats to sit next to me. Do this with an air of deliberation, making it clear to me that you were genuinely trying to decide whether to take one of the many thousands of free seats, or the one next to me.
Then, make it clear that you have decided on the one next to me, and that what follows is no mistake. Single me out as if you were an assassin. If you are really determined, do this every single day. Wait at the same point on your platform, get straight on my carriage, and head directly towards me. Plonk yourself down next to me and make sure you are wearing a smug-as-can-be expression.
2. Eat stinky cheese and onion crisps at the unholy hour of 7am. I can't begin to imagine why you would get any pleasure out of those crisps at that hour, but it is an excellent way to drive me mad.
3. Faff. Come charging in like a flustered bull. Hot, bothered, and clutching a bundle of papers, a coat, a coffee and some half-eaten pastries. Faff around with all your gear, smothering the table and grunting.
4. Wear a massive rucksack, and crash around in the aisle, knocking other commuters around. To achieve maximum effect do not take the rucksack off, and do not display any sense of coordination or spacial awareness.
5. Slurp your coffee. Enough said. It's simple to do, and it won't just irritate me either, it will drive every one of us balmy.
6. Speak on your phone the entire journey. Every time the signal cuts out as we go through every one of the ten tunnels on route say, ring them back yet again and say "Sorry I lost you, it was another tunnel". Speak very, very loudly. It is important that everyone in the carriage can hear you. Let them know that you don't care.
7. Smooch in front of the other commuters. Don't worry about us, we like the sound of kissing and cooing on the way to work. It distracts us from the stink of cheese and onion crisps.
8. Whip out a humongous "laptop", one of those Macs that doesn't just cover your lap, but infringes on the people either side of you. Tap away at the keyboard the whole journey. Tapity-tap-tap.
9. Watch my free paper like a vulture. Let me know you want it, and want it bad. Read over my shoulder and ignore any glares that I fire back. It's a free paper and a free country after all.
10. Don't bring a paper, magazine, book or music. Come completely unprepared for the journey so that you sit there restless and fidgety. Tap your fingers, watch the rest of us, and if possible, imitate the body language of an impatient child. There's nothing worse than a restless commuter.
11. If you are listening to music, treat the rest of us to some hearty humming and tapping.
12. Get on the wrong carriage, and then traipse up the train. Or better still, just traipse up and down. Bang the doors and knock any elbows next to the aisle.
13. Cut your nails on the train. Sit there in your own little world, totally oblivious to the rest of us. Clip, clip, clip. If you like, pick at the skin around your nails with a tiny little pen knife. Disgusting? I've seen one guy do this for the entire journey.
That will do for now. If I think of any more I will let you know.
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