Groundhog Day

Two weeks ago, I began commuting to university for the first time ever. After a disappointing house hunt involving a lot of wandering around Dublin crossing properties off our list because the landlord had kindly forgotten to tell us that he/she had let it from under our feet, I resigned myself to the fact that there would be an awful lot of public transport in my future. And back in August, I was cool with that. Commuting isn’t so bad, right? Sure I only live an hour away from Dublin by train, it’ll be a doddle. I’ll study on the train, I’ll become a genius. But two weeks into my new routine, I have one word for my previous naivety….LOL.

First of all, one cannot underestimate the sheer anger of commuters until one has joined their ranks. Getting up at some ungodly hour to catch a 6:50am train isn’t conducive towards a cheerful morning disposition. Most of us stumble on board clutching our coffee flasks, silently cursing the fact that we’re not still warmly cocooned in our beds. The slightest hiccup in our routine; not being able to sit in a window seat, forgetting our earphones or a long wait for a bus after the train journey can send us into nuclear self-destruct. All we ask is that, seeing as we have to add, like, three torturous hours onto our day shuttling back and forth from work/college and home, everything goes as smoothly as possible. And that, for the love of god, Dublin Bus won’t have gone on strike again.

Then there are the Personal Space Invaders, as I like to call them. All sense of decorum seems to go out the window with some commuters. I spent the best part of my morning train journey last Monday jostling for the arm rest with a man who seemed to require about fifteen square feet of space to read his newspaper. I wasn’t having this, especially seeing as he’d nearly sat on my bag and coat instead of asking me to move them so he could sit down, as is standard train etiquette. So we spent a cosy forty minutes squishing elbows as we both tacitly tried to assert our right to the armrest. Neither of us gave in, either. And I’ll say nothing of the woman who propped her stockinged feet on the seat beside me one evening, with their pungent stench. And it’s not just the train; queuing for a bus that hasn’t arrived on time can lead to mob behaviour at the bus stop. It’s actually quite unpleasant because I’m rather lacking in the height department and everyone is taller than me, so I can’t see what’s going on around me. And I’m paranoid about pickpockets, even if the possibility is remote. It’s far too early for any such nonsense. I do wish that we could all just get along, and allow each other a decent bubble of personal space.

Whenever I tell people that I’m commuting to college this year, they try to find the bright side for me by suggesting that I make use of the time by studying on the train. Oh, dear, friend, if only you knew the truth. I get pretty bad motion sickness if I try to read whilst on any form of transport, except for airplanes, and even then, it’s dicey. I get queasy reading people’s newspapers over their shoulders (yes, I am one of those people). Last Monday I tried to overcome it by reading some of my History of Florence notes on the way home, but within minutes I was flashing hot and cold, and feeling decidedly nauseous. Perseverance would have resulted in a sprint to the dingy train bathroom, and that’s not a pleasing prospect. So studying is out of the question, unless I can figure out a way to sort out my inner ear. That two or three hours of commuting time is essentially wasted. So of course I had no choice but to download Spotify Premium so I could occupy myself somehow.

Thirdly, nobody tells you how damn tiring commuting can be. I have very little class time in college, only twelve hours a week, but I’m absolutely shattered lately. College itself is hardly taxing seeing as I spend more time reading in the library than anything else, so it must be the travelling. I’m up before 6am some mornings, and home after 6pm other days, and most weekends I have at least one 8am shift at work. Days off are also a thing of the past. It’s little wonder that I’m conked out by 10:30 most nights; last night I retired at 10pm because my brain could not handle anything else. A side effect of all this is that I’m getting daily headaches; a frustrating thing in itself because I’m popping painkillers like sweets to keep them at bay. Not exactly the most healthy way to live, is it?

Which leads me on to the difficulty in eating healthily for a commuter. Most mornings, no matter how early I must leave the house, I will make time for a bowl of cereal and I’ll bring coffee on the train (although a caffeine drip would be my best option at this point). The rest of the day is where it goes downhill. I usually either forget to bring something for lunch, or I simply don’t have the time. Buying food on campus is expensive and, as I’m trying to avoid gluten, I must either settle for something unsatisfactory or eat a sandwich and suffer the ensuing discomfort. Dinner is all dependent on whether I had remembered to take something out of the freezer the previous night, and if I have the energy to cook when I get home. So I’m reaching for chocolate to boost me during the day. And yes, I feel like a fat lump of lard already.

I guess I should apologise for that doom-fest of a post. Sorry, folks. I just needed that little rant. But believe it or not, there are a couple of little perks to commuting. 

First of all, it’s saving my parents and I a chunk of money. My rent last year in Dublin was €500 per month; insane money for a single bedroom even though it was only minutes from college. My monthly train ticket costs less than half of that, and I’m not paying any bills or buying weekly food shopping. In fact, I’ve been able to afford to buy flights for a field trip to Florence next month (eeeeek!) out of my own money. Also, seeing as I’m up in Dublin for the day but have few lectures, I am spending a good amount of time in library and getting plenty of reading done; something that I tended to neglect before this year. And I’ve gotten my first assignment done nearly a month in advance. Because I really am that awesome. Finally, one might call it lonely, but I’m trying to look at commuting as an exercise in independence. Now really I’ve been independent since I was a toddler, but I’m having to spend a lot of time in my own company so I might as well get used to it.

I get to see my dog a lot more too. And that’s pretty cool.

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