25 things that I’ve learned on trains

I don’t commute now, but I’ve spent a lot of time travelling on trains because I used to work in London. I commuted in for over 10 years, and for much of the time, it was a 3 hour commute each day – so plenty of time for stories!

I saw someone else doing this and thought it might be a fun idea to share some of the things that I’ve learned on my train journeys – some funny, some important, some actually terrifying! If you have any lessons from trains to add, let me know in the comments!

  1. You never know whom you’ll meet and where those train conversations will lead. I’ve been left holding a baby while his mum and grandma went to deal with a medical emergency, been given phone numbers, none of which I followed up, and got chatting to people who later became friends. Who knew that a conversation beginning with “you look really stressed! I’m going to buy a coffee, do you want anything?” would lead to a friendship?
  2. People don’t look under tables to see if there is a guide dog under there before swinging their bags or legs under.
  3. There is something hilariously satisfying about seeing a wave of red wine flowing across the table in the direction of a colleague who has annoyed you, (I didn’t do it!) and watching them leap out of the way before the red wine wave hits. At the same time, you have to keep a really straight face and not fall about laughing, which is your initial reaction.
  4. Generally, people don’t respond well to a colleague dropping a metal guide dog harness on their heads because they didn’t put it on the overhead rack properly. We had to move to a different carriage!
  5. If you’re late, the train won’t be. If you’re on time, chances are it will be late.
  6. The Wimbledon Loop is a curious thing. If you want to go to Sutton, it’s quickest to take the Wimbledon train and the same applies the other way round.
  7. The scariest things don’t always happen late at night. The guys threatening passengers with knives incident happened at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. The best part was when they saw my sleeping golden retriever and ran for the doors in terror.
  8. Speaking of golden retrievers, asking your guide dog to find the door usually works, apart from when the train driver leaves his door open…
  9. Train departure board announcements and audible announcements are not always updated at the same time. This is annoying if you’re relying on the audible ones as they are sometimes an afterthought.
  10. It is possible to do your make-up on the train, but it’s best to leave mascara to when the train has stopped. I have seen a report where the German reporter was laughing at the English women for doing this, but seriously – the time I had to get up to commute into London, I’d rather have had those extra minutes in bed and done my make-up on the train.
  11. If you are unfortunate enough to slip on a wet floor and go sailing off the platform edge onto the tracks, it’s a long way down. I was glad I had the upper body strength to haul myself up again before the train came in, and I really wouldn’t recommend the experience. Fortunately the only thing that got broken was the end of a make-up brush, which I carried around for ages to remind me how lucky I was to have made it out of there!
  12. If you commute into London, you’re likely to see the same people every day. This can develop into a little community where people have birthday breakfasts, Christmas meals, and a cooking club together – all because you first met on the train!
  13. You might find yourself associating train stations with numbers because you count them off every single time because someone has turned off the audio announcements and it’s the only way you’ll find your stop.
  14. Knowing which side the doors are going to open at each station is really helpful when the train is packed.
  15. There’s something really reassuring about hearing the announcement “lady with a guide dog! Don’t run! The train will wait for you!” when you’re about to miss the last tube home!
  16. It’s also quite funny to hear a train guy say “running isn’t part of passenger assistance training” when you’re trying to encourage someone that it is ok if it means the difference between making your connection or waiting another 30 minutes for the next one.
  17. Sometimes people don’t believe there really is a guide dog and that’s why people can’t move down any further. Some people will even jump up at the windows to try and find out for themselves whether you are lying to them.
  18. Sometimes an alert dog and a worsening allergy means your suspicions are right – there really is a cat in your carriage!
  19. One way to be really late for your course is to get on the tube going the wrong way and then not realise for half an hour.
  20. There are people who will offer you seats, but not follow through with the information that the seat is available. So if you can’t see it, they either think you’re rude or just not very bright.
  21. You can get through a lot of books or podcasts if you have a long commute.
  22. Looking busy is a good way to prevent most people from talking to you when you’re either half-asleep or you’ve run out of social interaction energy for the day.
  23. A busy station is better than a deserted one any time you’re not exactly sure where you have to go.
  24. Train coffee isn’t great, but most of the time it will do if the need for coffee is greater!
  25. In London, you can get to most places by train, which is brilliant if you don’t drive.
  26. How about you?

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