Oh hello there.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while.
I have a job now.
Yes, that’s right, a real job.
No, I don’t get paid.
No, it’s only for a month.
There may, may, be things at my job that I’m not so good at. Like using a keyboard. Or completing things. Or starting things. Or just generally functioning. But if there’s one thing that I have completely excelled at during my time on this placement, it is getting a seat on the tube.
Every morning at precisely 7:30 I arrive at Dagenham East station. I give a friendly greeting to the rest of my Dagenham East massive. They’re all there, all your usual suspects- green coat lady, ginger child, and life and soul of the gang, man who reads The Metro. I greet them not because I like them, but because it is necessary. I may want to gain a seat, but first I need to gain their trust. I am a short; I can’t fight my way to a seat with my physical strength alone so I will use my wits to outsmart them all.
Sometimes I don’t need to. Sometimes, oh blessed days, the train arrives and the doors slide open right in front of where I’m standing. These are the days I live for. On these occasions, I hold out my arms and cry, “All hail Rebecca, lord of the platform!” before embarking on a victory lap up around the station to tremendous cheers, well, my own cheering. Unfortunately the time it takes for me to celebrate normally means I am last on the train. No matter, I may not be lord of the platform but I am certainly master of the train.
The trick is to never go to the end carriages of the train. For a brief second they fly past me as the train pulls in; crammed on top of each other, staring out at me with their blank faces, begging to be let off with their eyes- a small child writes simply, “Help me!” in the condensation on the window. Once you’re on, there’s never enough room to get off so I imagine they’ve probably been there forever; living, dying, raising families there. I pity these people and their naivety but I cannot help them- you got on the end carriage, what did you expect you fools? No, if one wants to survive the commute, one must get on in the middle carriages.
The inevitable scan of the carriage begins as soon as the train comes into view. There is a seat; but the competition is ferocious. A girl in a good position for it hesitates and immediately puts herself out of the running. “Amateur!” I snigger. Ginger child is making good ground on the side of me. I dispatch him by casually sticking out my foot. Maybe I seem unfair but I need it more than him. I’ve tracked him and I know very well that he only gets off two stops after at Becontree the lazy little shit. When I was a commuting school kid I would simply lie down and let the adults walk across me, this generation have no respect!
Meanwhile, Man with Metro, typical of his species, is using his height to gain advantage- it looks like he may be winning. I cannot defeat him alone. I casually turn to find green coat lady is also being jostled by him and roll my eyes at her. She understands the signal. Together we move as one and lurch forward, toppling Man with Metro. His Metro flies into the air and I swoop to catch it. We beam at each other; who says the tube has an unfriendly atmosphere? I look at my accomplice and couldn’t feel more warmth towards her, a beautiful friendship has begun!
But, dear friends, this is not the end of my story, for there is still the matter of the empty seat. You see in life, there are people who get seats and there are people who don’t. I am sick of not getting a seat. I have no choice but to be ruthless, I am lighter and faster than green coat lady and I easily slide in front to clinch victory. It is shocking how easy it is. I watch the smile slide from her face- she has not only lost her seat, but a potential friend. You see, people with seats can’t be seen socialising with people who stand, I would be ousted from the seat community. I casually get my head phones out and smile smugly at my new sitting friends. They smile smugly back- they understand what it is to fight for a seat, we are the ones who passed the test. Green coat lady stands over me sadly. I avoid her gaze. On the tube, as in life, everything is a competition.