You won’t catch me on commuter trains and half past eight, a free line at half nine and I’m still not late – these lines were piped into my head as I sat, staring out the window of my commuter train dreaming of colour and travel. I remember singing along to these lyrics a year or so earlier and now look at me: another fetid suit on a Monday morning train except my train came at 7:19am. I had taken to standing at the same spot of the platform each morning where I knew the doors would open right in front of me and I would access the least packed carriage and squeeze myself into a tiny seat.
In the mornings people would sleep and doze in the carriage – yawning with hypnotized eyes. And in the evenings, full of rage and stress, the same people would exit the city striding, desperate to capture the remaining seats on their train home. The carriages then would smell of fast food, wet leather and trousers. Sometimes the trains would be late and the stress would ball-up inside me until I wanted to vomit out the whole horrible scenario.
One journey I remember being significant. I was sat on a tube train in my suit hiding behind a newspaper and on stepped two punks, a man and woman, who sat directly opposite me. She had bleached spiky hair, a leather vest top, tartan skirt, fishnets and black boots. He wore a red and green mohican, leather vest, tartan trousers and boots. I burned with shame. You see, I had been a punk once and now look at me in my salaryman.
The dream of success ended then and there. The dream of a well paid job, nice apartment, disposable income, taxis, theatres, cocktails. When I entered the world I never knew the terrible cost those things come at.
I looked at the punks: two magnificent fingers stuck up against a system that pours people into cubicals or “hot desks”. A system that, in a mad nod to individuality, created “dress down Friday” only to impose even more rigid controls on exactly what “dress down” means.
You won’t catch me on commuter trains and half past eight, a free line at half nine and I’m still not late. I half quit, half was fired from my only proper job within the year. Since then I’ve been a confidence coach, a junkie and a writer. This is my story.