Saturday 5 November 2016

Nine things I learnt in nine months of commuting

At the end of January, the company I was working for closed its Bath office and offered me the chance to relocate to a business park near Didcot. And so, a short commute to the centre of a beautiful heritage city mushroomed into a 90 minute car-train-bus ride to an office block in the shadow of a decommissioned power station.

I embarked on the sort of journey to work I hadn't undertaken since my twenties, the major part being a train from Bath Spa station to Didcot Parkway and back again. No The Girl on the Train moments (thankfully), but here, in nine months of commuting, is what I learnt:

  • I HATE having cold feet. Train platforms are stubbornly chilly even when the temperature elsewhere is balmy. It took me until mid-July to break out of opaque tights and boots. 
  • Every peak-time passenger (myself included) bristles with electronic appliances, BUT... 

  • DON'T even think about relying on the GWR WiFi. Apart from being insecure, in my experience it rarely works - except late at night, by which time you've probably given up.
  • DO take advantage of extra reading time but be warned; the frequent announcements, nearby conversations and compulsion to people-watch aren't conducive to concentration. High-octane thrillers are better than subtle works of contemplation.
  • It's a bubble land, where people discuss all sorts of things they really shouldn't in public. I've overheard details of confidential pricing, contracts, legal cases and even staff appraisals.
  • The vast majority of rail staff (though sometimes difficult to find) are fantastically helpful. The same can't be said for bus drivers.

  • All sorts of things can be spotted on the tracks: sooty black rats, hairbrushes, a single shoe, a potted plant. Each one has its own story.
  • Sadly, people on the lines are all too frequent, too.
  • Travel may be exciting but long-distance commuting is tiring, boring and expensive. And that's when it all goes to plan. You really need to factor this in from the start - or negotiate as many opportunities as possible to work from home.

Image of Didcot Power Station courtesy of the BBC.

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