My headphones were defunct this morning, owing to an errant little rubber thingy (technical term) and so I was forced to endure the sound of *gulp* real people. This is a well documented horror and has resulted in several cattle prod injuries and biro stabbings across the London overground network while my iPod was broken for the best part of a year, but today my commuter rage was focused on the sound emanating from one of my worst fears.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a strange phobia that haunts me on my morning commute and on long plane journeys. It’s not as bad as my fear of birthday cake or my fear of any human under the age of 18, this is my fear of people sleeping upright and the sound, was the snore, a sonorous warning that someone is trying to balance their completely unconscious body in a position not conducive to balance.
For many, their early morning or post-work journey is the perfect opportunity to catch forty winks and who can blame them? When you’re asleep you shield your senses from the smells and sounds of what is essentially a moving metal armpit full of the social vomit that is the populace, graced with the social awareness of Ebola. But for me, the sleeping commuter is as vomitty as the rest, for I sit in perpetual fear of the nodding, swaying, drooling snore machine that lurches violently my way.
I do not mind the head of a treasured friend resting gently ‘pon my shoulder as we travail our way along a road trip most extraordinaire, I have been able to tolerate the foundation shaking snores of a drunken lover, but there is nothing that makes my digestive tract crawl up into my throat like the swaying form of a close-eyed stranger, bobbing ever more close to resting their dribbling face on my pristine jacket.
Every lurch of the train elicits a head bob of semi-consciousness and then sends them veering the other direction, back into the land of slumber and closer to the shoulder of their other neighbour or the window, but, as surely as the tide will turn and your toast will land jam side down on the cat, back they come, bringing the promise of uncomfortably close physical contact with one who has not so much as bought you dinner or flowers first. They may as well be a swarm of faeces coated hornets descending upon me, and judging by some of the regular passengers of my morning commute, that might actually be preferable.
We all know that the main objective when boarding a train is to secure and maintain a seat for the duration of the journey. I have been known, when sat next to Mr or Mrs Wobbly-Nod, to vacate my seat with the speed of one who has just realised they are violently allergic to sitting and is being chased through the carriage by a rabid tiger, ridden by an evil clown bearing a freshly filled nappy and a catapult. Several train carriage doors across the capital now bear a hole in the shape of a terrorised blonde.
I don’t just bolt at the lurch of the person next to me though; the head bobbing and swaying of a lumbering slumberer in the seat opposite me is enough to make me squirm as one faced with photographs of that time they got caught doing that thing with the people from the place where they shouldn’t be (we’ve all done it, don’t act coy). You see, it’s not just the fear of wearing someone’s drool like a moist epaulette, it’s not just the thought of physical contact with someone who may have scabies and the odour of a tramp’s pocket, it’s also the awkwardness and embarrassment of the situation; not just mine, theirs. As I see someone with a chronic case of the nods, jaw flapping, drool extending from their bottom lip, I feel this all consuming sensation of being witness to some awful act of masochistic self-debasement and that I’m watching a time ticking bomb of personal space invasion.
I may not always sleep so well at nights but I do not put myself at risk of dribbling on a stranger’s shoulders, of being caught mouth agape, or of entertaining the masses with my nasal lullaby. The very thought of intruding on someone’s personal space any more than I already have to while aboard public transport (unless with the aid of a cattle prod) leaves with a goodly amount of English shame, so why do others deem it acceptable?
You’ve had ample time to loll about in your bed, the public transportation system is not the place to flop and lounge, encroaching on the patience and shoulder room of the world at large. Can your journey really be so long and arduous that you need nap breaks? You are not a hobbit on a jewellery toting quest, you are merely going from A to B in less than a full Earthly orbit – get a grip (or a suitably supportive travel pillow).
I have decided to face my fears, to grab the dozy bull by its snorey horns. For those of you who insist on pushing out the zeds while in my presence on a train or a plane, know this. While your yapper is flapping and your head flopping wildly like a landed salmon, I can and will treat you as a fairground attraction. I will find used gum, I will find cigarette butts dragged in by feet, I will find dead flies and I will use gobbits of morning spit. *Cue fairground music * Your gaping maw is now a moving target, and my prize? The choking noise you make as you jolt awake with a mouthful of litter and the realisation that you’ve missed your stop. Well, it’s either that or the cattle prod.