The daily commute can drive even the most sophisticated-looking people to sing drunkenly out of tune on public transport. That is what I learnt this week as I boarded the late night train to Eastbourne from Lewes, full of men in sharp suits and women with a sharper eye for dressing like a slut, returning from London’s various nightclubs, all slumped against each other like dominoes, snoring away the minutes.
A thirtysomething bloke was sat opposite me the whole way there, swigging generously from a can of imported lager which was making him wince theatrically with every gulp. He had gelled, spiky blonde hair which added a few inches to his height and looked like the kind of man who spends three quarters of an hour picking a tie every morning.
We all know that drinking the dregs of a can of beer is disgusting but Thirtysomething made one heck of a scene. After downing his last dribble of lager, he crushed the can in his hand and raised his arms aloft in the manner of someone crossing the finishing line of a marathon. It soon became clear however, that he had endured his own marathon; a six-pack of beer.
The only people that can get away with air drumming in a public place are metal fans wearing t-shirts of bands with names like “Cradle of Filth”: I once marvelled at a teenager on the bus who shut his eyes and drummed away the entire journey, oblivious to everything else, hammering away at the skins of the imaginary drums in front of him. He didn’t even stop for an ad hoc sax solo, so I knew he wasn’t listening to Madness. But when you’re t-shirt has the band “Anal Cunt” written in large letters on the front of it, the Nutty Boys probably aren’t your cup of tea.
Anyway, Thirtysomething, now mumbling under his breath, thought the best thing he could do was to start air drumming. The peculiar faces he was pulling made it seem like he was impersonating the drumming gorilla from the Cadbury’s advert. Honestly, replace the gorilla with this bloke and Cadbury’s would save a fortune – it would doubtless become a massive internet viral smash. Plus, people would stop buying Phil Collins records, so everyone’s a winner.
Thirtysomething suddenly decided to do what all bad DJs insist upon at weddings; the slow, mawkish song. His iPod switched to ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ by Irish songstress Sinead O’Connor. I expected him to introduce the track with a little more energy than a spluttering “What a fucking song this is” and a raised arm in the air; I wanted him to give it the big’un. “That’s it, ladies and gentleman, bring your partner to the dancefloor and hold them close for the next three minutes! Fight back those tears chaps, because YMCA is on next!”
As the chorus approached, he was close to crying. It was at this point I guessed something more substantial must have happened in his life, rather than just a shit day at the office. Otherwise the rush hour train would be full of blubbering fat men attempting to forget that the paperwork for the China deal didn’t go through in time by giving their liver a kicking and slow-dancing alone to “Angels”.
I just couldn’t believe the difference between what this bloke was probably like at work, all shiny briefcases and orthopaedic shoes, and the shivering wreck of a man in front of me.
I briefly commuted to London for a summer job and it was pretty depressing. Spending three hours on a train per day isn’t good for the brain, but it has clearly driven Thirtysomething to look for life at the bottom of a beer can, and all he found there was a reflection of his own face, which made him even more upset.
The train arrived in Eastbourne at 11.13pm, yet he will no doubt be on the morning train at 7am, hoping that no-one recognises him from the night before.
Still, it gave everyone on the train a laugh, what with our deeply sophisticated British humour. One austere gentleman, crisp Daily Telegraph folded neatly in his Harrod’s briefcase, prompted a ripple of laughter when he suggested we got our lighters out and started waving them. As Thirtysomething hit the high note of the chorus, I provoked a titter by searching the floor and asking “Has anyone seen my eardrum?”
Good old Britain. Wallowing in Other People’s Misery since 1066. That should be our nation’s slogan. Well, it’s better than “Birthplace of Jeremy Kyle”, so it will have to do.