Having spent much of the past five days on the UK’s rail network I’ve started to see patterns emerging among my fellow passengers. This may be the first signs of madness setting in (which would not be surprising given the whole Pacer incident) but it could also be the beginnings of a brand new field of social research. So, without any further ado, here are some sweeping categorisations that you should be able to assign to 90% of the people you see on any train:
Category 1: The Commuter
Description: This is a migratory type of passenger who’s main habitat is on trains within forty miles of a major metropolitan area. They are incredibly efficient as they have undertaken the same migratory route every day for the past fifteen years. They will generally be dressed in office wear and will know everybody else on the tran, but only acknowledge them subconsciously.
Behaviour: Commuters are pack animals and are most comfortable when surrounded by forty other commuters in a one-metre square area of carriage floor. (Interesting fact: The collective noun for a group of commuters is a ‘surge’). They have a remarkable ability to multitask and will be organising their meetings for the day, drinking coffee, reading a novel and checking Facebook all at the same time.
Common Accessories: The Metro; A book; A tall-double-short-back-and-sides-skinny-whipped-caramel-latte-with-chocolate-cinnamon-and-shot-of-fairy-dust.
Common Sayings: None. As mentioned before, they communicate subconsciously.
Handy Tip: Watch what the commuters do. If they’re all standing by a particular set of doors in a carriage there is a reason for this. Either that is the closest set of door to the station exit or the other doors won’t be on the station platform and will lead you to a bizarre narnia-esque world that is certainly not Bristol Parkway.
Category 2: The iPassenger (TM)
Description: Plugged in and online, the iPassenger (TM) is actually an early prototype cyborg. They will have wires protruding from every available orifice in their clothing and will have their own personal sound system.
Behaviour: The iPassenger (TM) will seek out and cluster round any available electrical outlets on the train, where they will plug in their numerous ‘mobile’ devices to ensure that they can actually work. When they do this, the lights on the rest of the train will often dim. The iPassenger (TM) is a highly-advanced species that no longer requires such things as sustenance from the refreshment trolley, or indeed windows. In fact, the iPassenger (TM) will rarely raise their head from their glowing screen and is usually completely oblivious to anything that’s going on in their surrounds.
Common Accessories: iPhone; iPad; iPod; iPad Air; iWatch; iPlayer; iShoes; iHair; iClothes (etc).
Common Sayings: The iPassenger with only speak if they encounter another iPassenger who has rival technology. At that point an advanced posturing display of one-up-man-ship will ensue, the outcome of which may be some kind of mutual cyber attack.
Handy Tip: In crowded situations the iPassenger essentially acts as a bulldozer, ploughing through the surges of commuters while not lifting their eyes from their technology. Follow them for a clear path through.
Category 3: The Grumbler
Description: The Grumbler doesn’t usually get the train, so sighting one is quite a rare occurrence. They usually get from a to b in their Audi XT-75ST which runs on pure liquid testosterone. They are only on the train because they managed to plough their Audi XT-75ST into someone else’s BMW-A350XWB the previous night and their other car is currently in the garage having a larger exhaust fitted.
Behaviour: The train is an annoyance to the grumbler and they will make sure that the whole carriage is aware of their views. The train will either be too crowded or too empty. It will always be late, even when it’s early. The refreshment trolley will not have what they want and, even if it does, it will too expensive and too hot / cold. Upon completion of their journey they will comment to the carriage about what an ordeal it had been, and how the late-running of the early train means that it is ‘no surprise’ that nobody uses the trains anymore.
Common Accessories: Daily Mail.
Common Sayings: See Daily Mail. (Please! Do not go put and buy one to do this! Just peruse one in a shop from a distance, but make sure none of your friends see you doing this.)
Handy Tip: Always sit upstream of the grumbler with regards to the refreshment trolley. If you sit downstream of them it is unlikely that the trolley will ever get to you, as the grumbler will have demanded the resignation of the person operating the trolley due to the fact that their tea hasn’t been provided in a bone china mug.
Category 4: The Adventurer
Description: The Adventurer is usually found on the large-calibre inter-city lines that emanate from London. They will be accompanied by a fellow adventurer and will be heading to a major city for a day out. They will have been looking forward to this day for the previous two months.
Behaviour: The adventurer will always seek out a table seat where they will sit opposite their fellow adventurer. They will then spread out the most remarkable packed breakfast / lunch you have ever seen and will dine on it for the next hour, while reading through visitor guides to the places they are visiting. They will be amazed at the cleanliness / punctuality of the trains and the speed at which it’s delivering them to their destination. They will always, always have advance purchased tickets and will produce them from the envelope in which they were delivered to their home address.
Common Accessories: On the outward journey, not much more than has been mentioned above. On the return journey however they will be laden down with bags from Harrods and Hamley’s and will spend the journey looking through all the pictures of the wonderful day they’ve just had.
Common Sayings: ‘Isn’t this great?’; ‘Isn’t the scenery wonderful?’
Handy Tip: if you get a chance, make sure you sit next to an adventurer at some point. It will brighten your day and, if you are familiar with the place they’re visiting, you will have non-stop conversation for the next two hours.
Category 5: The Parent
Description: The parent will be accompanied by three children, four buggies, eighteen shopping bags, one phone (held between shoulder and ear) and a large minion toy. They will only occupy a small area on the train but their zone of influence will extend far beyond this, as their foot soldiers (children) set off on expeditions to explore the entire carriage.
Behaviour: The parent exists in a perpetual state of crisis as they attempt to control twelve things at once. They will always arrive on the train with a large number of tickets but some of these will no-doubt be eaten by their toddler during the trip. They will become great friends with the guard as they try to explain why one of their children has decided to illustrate the back of a seat with a surprisingly good likeness of Thomas from Thomas the Tank Engine. At some point they will be forced to sing ‘Let it Go’.
Common Accessories: Far too many to list here. Essentially an entire house.
Common Sayings: ‘A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the Queen’.
Handy Tip: Do not sit too close to the parent. It is possible that you will become part of their entourage and will suddenly find yourself organised off the train and at a ballet lesson.
Category 6: The Off-Duty Staff
Description: They are railway staff of any description who are off duty. They can be recognised by their distinctive orange plumage and branded workwear.
Behaviour: They are usually seen on early-morning or late-night services heading two or from one of the major rail hubs. They usually travel in pairs but will be friendly with every other off-duty staff member they meet. You can often find them in close proximity to the refreshment trolley, especially if it is operated by someone they know. Despite being off-duty, they will still be required to answer questions, take comments from and carry the bags of any of the other passenger types on the train.
Common Accessories: As mentioned above there will be a hi-vis somewhere. If it is not being worn it will be sticking out of a bag.
Common Sayings: Off duty staff speak a foreign language and it’s best not to get involved. Example: ‘I’ve just finished my stint of earlies but am now moving onto reverse four-day evening weeks (excluding Tuesdays) taking 47s out of central over the spur’.
Handy Tip: Off-dirty staff, like commuters, know the network inside out. Be careful if you follow them though as you may accidentally end up in the depot.
Category 7: The Clueless / Lost
Description: This is a passenger who has clearly gone wrong somewhere in their prior journey and is now starting to realise that fact.
Behaviour: They will exhibit jumpy and slightly-panicked behaviour as they start to deduce that they may be heading away from their destination at some speed. They will try (and fail) to read the names of the stations that are flashing past the window at 120mph. They will try (and fail) to read google maps to get an idea of what county they’re in. At stations they will be paralysed by a terrible bout of indecisiveness that will ultimately lead to them being left on the platform as their bag merrily continues it’s journey on the train. This will later tread to a security alert that shuts down the entire network for several hours.
Common Accessories: None. Most will have been lost in previous bouts of indecisiveness.
Common sayings: ‘Is this the train to X’?
Handy Tip: You may well laugh at the plight of the lost passenger but beware: One day it’ll be you.
Category 8: The Sleeper
Description: Every train has one. This is a passenger who will be asleep for the duration of their journey.
Behaviour: Asleep. Possibly snoring.
Common Accessories: Pillows and a Duvet.
Common Sayings: None. They’re asleep. Will occasional mutter something about earmuffs and cookies.
Handy Tip: Do not occupy the space between the sleeper and the train door. At some point, usually just after the train has arrived at their destination, the sleeper will wake up, panic, and head to the door at remarkable speed. If you get in the way you will not survive.
Category 9: The Blogger
Description: Undoubtedly the coolest of all train passengers.
Behaviour: Borderline sociopathic tendencies as they write about those surrounding them on the train. Ridiculous set-ups involving technology and wires to try and post something to their blog while in the highlands of Scotland.
Common Accessories: A very large rucksack.
Handy Tip: If you sit near this passenger it is likely you will be stereotyped.