Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Commuter Rules That Make Tube Manners Such a Deep-Seated Problem

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Commuter Rules That Make Tube Manners Such a Deep-Seated Problem

Article excerpt

Byline: Ellen E Jones

THE first rule of commute club is, obviously, you do not talk about commute club. But when the other rules are so flagrantly flouted on London transport every day, we must break this first rule, in order to redress the second. The second rule of commute club is always give up your seat to a fellow passenger in greater need.

This act of everyday gallantry should be easy enough, yet daily experience suggests otherwise. Social media is full of indignant accounts from, say, that person who stood all the way from East Finchley to Colliers Wood, while strapping lads lounged on, oblivious. It's just unfortunate that the second rule of commute club also happens to conflict with the third, and most important rule of all: never make eye contact with any of your fellow passengers, nor acknowledge their existence in any way.

This rule applies especially, but not exclusively, to busking accordionplayers with a fresh take on Radiohead's back catalogue and people you know from work and were happily chatting to moments earlier. As every veteran of the Central line knows, the only way to make it through rush hour with your mental faculties intact is to sink so deeply into your "safe place" that you're barely conscious of your surroundings at all. It's a kind of selfhypnosis, with headphones in place of a swinging pocket watch and the Standard instead of a psychiatrist's soothing voice.

I've heard tell from distant cities in the North of bus routes where passengers exchange pleasantries when someone sits down next to them. Not in London, mate. And definitely not if you're a woman. Women learn early that in the culture of the Underground accidental eye contact is an invitation as unequivocal as writing your phone number in lipstick on the carriage window while mouthing Rihanna lyrics. Offering up your seat is the decent thing to do, yes. …

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