back to article We don’t talk any more... on the commute

“Is this the train to Faversham?” asks a woman as she boards. A regular commuter returning to the southeast London suburbs, I always get off at the first stop and have no idea where the trains eventually end up two hours later. “I’m afraid I don’t know,” I reply. “What?” she cries incredulously. “Don’t you know what train you …


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  1. Johnny G
    Thumb Up

    Nicely put

    My 20 mins on a ridiculously packed South West Train to Waterloo has always been the same - no one talks to each other and that was the case long before Smartphones, ipads, etc. Occasionally you get some t***t who doesn't mind the entire carriage listening to his one-way phone conversation, but the majority of us are private individuals who value that time to ourselves, just thinking, reading, texting, day dreaming etc.

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Nicely put

      " the majority of us are private individuals who value that time to ourselves, just thinking, reading, texting, day dreaming etc"

      and occasionally glaring at the other prat on the train who has seemingly decided to turn his headphones into high frequency loud speakers. Although the best way I've found to stop that is to either mouth along to the lyrics (if you know them) or failing that, dance.

    2. Armando 123

      Re: Nicely put

      "the majority of us are private individuals who value that time to ourselves, just thinking, reading, texting, day dreaming etc."

      That is such a rare thing these days, not being talked at and being allowed to let your mind rest ...

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Nicely put

        I miss commuting on trains, so civilized to be able to sit or stand in relative comfort.

        I commute on the Central Line, even on these cold autumnal mornings, you get to experience 15 minutes of sweaty "Adult Sardines" with people I wouldn't normally want to get with 5 metres of.

        The trick on the underground is visualisation of a safe, happy place, which does not go hand in hand with chatting to random people, or in my experience, eye contact.

        1. nichomach
          Thumb Up

          Re: Nicely put

          I hated the early starts when I used to work in Manchester, but the time on the train if one could get a seat was nice. Now I drive, and the trip to work is a source of stress rather than calm.

          1. Graham Marsden

            Re: Nicely put

            Go into a shop that sells motorbike equipment and buy yourself a decent set of earplugs! :-)

    3. NomNomNom

      Re: Nicely put

      People are so busy in london that if you try to make eye contact with people on the underground tube no-one notices. Even if you wave at them they ignore it even though they aren't doing anything so it's rude. Some fall asleep but that's weird because it's only 8am and they surely only just got up so I quietly whisper to them asking if they are pretending to be asleep, but most of them never admit it so I have to make funny noises until they eventually crack which proves they were pretending then I just glare at them for the rest of the journey for being rude. Although maybe it's not their fault if it is true that the government has put something in the water.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nicely put

        They're probably ignoring you because they think you're weird. The general view of public transport is it's a means to get where you're going not a place to meet new and exciting people.

        Also the person asleep on the tube at 8am may be asleep for the following reasons, they finished a night shift and are going home (So you just bothered a doctor or a nurse after helping save peoples lives all day, good job), they have a stupid commute from out of town meaning they left around 6am and they use the commute as an opportunity to sleep, they're on their way home from a night out, they were out on the town the day before and didn't get their normal amount of sleep, etc, etc.

        They're not being rude, they just have no particular reason to give a damn about you.

        1. NomNomNom

          Re: Nicely put

          no they they don't think I am weird they are just being rude. First of all I am not weird second even if I was how would they know it? Some of them don't even bat an eyelid when I wave frantically at them. It's like they are drugged.

          "The general view of public transport is it's a means to get where you're going not a place to meet new and exciting people."

          their loss then

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nicely put

            You sound pretty mental to me.

          2. Darryl

            Re: Nicely put

            Sorry, if I'm on a train and some joker I've never seen before is whispering to sleeping people and jumping up and down waving at me, I'm going to think he/she's off his/her rocker, not just weird, and I'm going to do everything in my power to avoid him/her.

            1. Hungry Sean

              Re: Nicely put

              christ, the lot of you are clearly in dire need of a humorectomy.

              1. Zack Mollusc

                Re: Re: Nicely put

                'Humourplasty', surely?

                1. Danny 14

                  Re: Nicely put

                  NomNomNom - you sound like the precise reason that people want to be left alone. I dont want to talk to you. You arent my friend and im not being rude. Being rude would be to tell you to shut the fuck up.

                  You *are* a weirdo as you clearly set out to annoy someone who doesnt want anything to do with you.

          3. Oninoshiko

            Re: Nicely put

            If everyone on the train is minding their own business and you are going up an making weird gestures and whispering at them then, by definition, you are weird.

            Then again, a lot of us are weird. It makes life interesting.

      2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

        Re: Nicely put

        Everyone can safely ignore this weird post by NomNomNom: he's just trolling. Again.

  2. Ru

    "Mild horror combined with sarcasm and sexual arousal"

    I can't quite picture this myself. Perhaps some example mugshots of some of the Reg's staff forming this expression would help?

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: "Mild horror combined with sarcasm and sexual arousal"

      I tried just now but I think I might have broken my face.

      1. SiempreTuna

        Re: "Mild horror combined with sarcasm and sexual arousal"

        Hardly tough to imagine: try any teenage girl watching Twilight ..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ... try any teenage girl watching Twilight

          ..thats illegal in most countries where Reg readers reside. ;)

  3. jai

    When I first started working in the smoke, mp3 players were popular, but not really in much evidence on the 6am commuter train filled with suits. But as you say, then as now, people didn't really have conversations with each other. No one talked. The oldies read newspapers, loudly and annoyingly. And for the most part, I slept, snoring loudly and annoyingly I presume.

    These days I'm watching videos, reading books or listening to podcasts on my journey, and i feel much more awake and alert when i get to the office than i ever did when i was younger.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I hate the ones with laptops who seem to have a compulsive need to smash their fingers into the keys as loudly as they can when they rattle off a reply to some interminably pointless email. If they pause, it's only to scroll up and down their Blackberry messages (which invariably has the winding-a-watch clicking sound effect turned on) or to tap on a tablet (touch sounds enabled, naturally). Pretentious tossers.

      1. NomNomNom

        The best thing to do on the train with a laptop is to put on big headphones and plug them into the laptop. Then set off a really embarrassing song (britney or a certain song by gary glitter) making sure it plays out of the laptop speakers not the headphone socket. Now everyone on the train is listening to the song. But sit there as if you think it's coming through the headphones, not the laptop. Make sure to bounce your head around a little so it looks like you are enjoying it.

        The other passengers. The ball is now in their court. Keep the music going until someone taps you on the shoulder. Take off the headphones and break out into an expression of sheer terror. Flail about with the laptop like a madman trying to stop the music shouting "IT ISNT STOPPING! HOW DO I STOP IT??? It's not even my music! how did this start playing???"

        Finally turn it off. Then sit back and enjoy the silence over the rest of the journey. Make sure to make "accidental" eye contact with as many passengers as possible when you disembark.

      2. Maryland, USA
        Thumb Up

        tapping on a laptop

        You're not the only commuter who is annoyed by loud users of portable electronics. Listen to the song "Tapping On a Laptop" in my musical play Tracks the Musical: .

  4. Rampant Spaniel

    Planes are just as bad if not worse

    Since you aren't allowed out of your seat anymore people take this as an oppertunity to interrogate some poor sod sat near them. Just because you didn't think it was wise to bring some entertainment on a 9 hour flight doesn't mean I want to know your entire family history. It's not bad if the person is remotely normal and I'm not busy but frequently I have to work on the flight and whilst I like my work, 8 hours of editting photos sat next to some heffer who hasn't heard of washing and insists on commenting on every picture whilst whacking my arm with her bingo wings is not my idea of fun. It's common courtesy, if someone is busy or engrossed in a book it is not a universal sign for bore me with your half remembered gossip from the enquirer or your family tree. Especially do not confuse my English accent for a saffer one, purely on the grounds that I cannot think of two more dissimilar ones.

    1. Aldous

      Re: Planes are just as bad if not worse

      i have never understood people like that " i will sit in the same spot for 9 hours but i don't need any entertainment,food or water it will all miraculously come to me and if it doesn't i will make it happen" or they think your some mobile fear of flying support group that should hold their hand the whole way. Next time you have shoulder surfers have a stash of youtube video's downloaded with planes in trouble soon stop them (or get you called an insensitive **** either way is good)

      Why should we babble to random strangers pointlessly. if someone is showing signs of being intrusted in similar things (i.e same band tshirts etc) fine but why this obsession people have with people not wanting to talk to random strangers is beyond me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Planes are just as bad if not worse

        Next time you have shoulder surfers have a stash of youtube video's downloaded with planes in trouble soon stop them

        Or do what I did once - at the point of take off, murmur sinisterly that it's when the vast majority of crashes happen. Admittedly I did do this prior to 11/9 (or whatever the septics call it).

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Planes are just as bad if not worse

          Now they monitor your thoughts for key words, I'd never get away with that! :-) Although I did note a lady a few seats away with a needle doing some kind of cross stitch for the feeble minded thing and wondered how she got a needle on board? I (quite rightly) had a jewelers screwdriver removed from my bag after forgetting I had left it in there (useful for quickly taking lenses apart for a clean / adjust).

          1. Danny 14

            Re: Planes are just as bad if not worse

            Everyone knows that the evil/naughty boy look from a little old lady could wither any security guard. She probably stared him into carrying the bag for her.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Planes are just as bad if not worse

      In my experience, expressing some seriously aggressive opinions about religion or politics tend to scare people off trying to pursue further conversation. To me, it's a win-win. Either they shut up and leave me alone, or they set themselves up for the most atrocious baiting ever, which will keep me amused for as long as I get away with it.

      I suspect I will eventually get arrested, but so far, the going is good :)

  5. Platelet

    “Is this the train to Faversham?”

    I've found the simple answer to avoid embarassment is


    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

      Actually, the nutter who sat next to me had a memorable little anecdote. Once while travelling in Yorkshire, he jumped onboard a commuter service at the last minute as the doors hissed shut, fully knowing that he was on the correct train, and announced loudly: "Thank God I managed to catch the last train to Glasgow!"

      The fact that no-one laughed was no surprise. The fact that no-one dared suggest he was on the wrong train was perhaps more worrying.

    2. Silverburn

      Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

      The cryptic response works too:

      "Is this the train to Faversham?"

      "I hope not"

      1. pixl97

        Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

        "Oh got, it's happening again"

        With a look of horror on your face.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

        "I've no idea; I just leapt aboard it to avoid the police. Have you seen my knife?"

    3. Dexter

      Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

      "I've never dared go that far"

    4. NomNomNom

      Re: “Is this the train to Faversham?”

      "this is not a train"

  6. Pete 2

    Hell is in "hello"

    > There must be something about my demeanour that makes people want to ask me about train schedules.

    it must be the peaked hat and whistle that does it.

    Seriously, the absolute LAST thing I want (in a long list, after getting off and waiting in the cold for the next train) on a journey is for some stranger to try and strike up a conversation with me. I don't care about their life and I really don't care about their cats, or kids, or holiday, or hopes and I REALLY don't want to hear about their problems or whatever trivial dilemma is fully exercising however many brain cells they can currently call upon.

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Hell is in "hello"

      It's not all bad. I once got into a conversation on a train out of Paddington with an RAF chaplain who had just got back from a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a bit weird feeling the "talking to a clergyman, mustn't swear about stuff" filters come on, especially since he was a military man, and soldiers are known to be second only to sailors for earthiness of language. (This isn't necessarily true - a building I worked in back in the mid 90s was shitcanned when the asbestos-filled roof fell in one weekend. The hazmat cleanup guys (a specialist firm) were the most foul-mouthed people I've ever heard anywhere. Every third word, it seemed like, was f*ck, sh*t, p*ss, etc., almost like they were trying to have a contest to see which of them could shock us posh engineers the most.)

      Anyway the chaplain talked about his experience in the cargo spaces of Hercules and stuff like that. Interesting.

  7. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    "You can’t shut the fuckers up. "

    First proper chuckle I've had all day, better than BoFH, thanks :D

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: BOFH

      Thanks for reminding me. I nearly6 forgot to check out BOFH latest output. Took a while but I'm sure it'll be worth it.

  8. birchanger_toper

    Gerard Hoffnung's advice

    Gerard Hoffnung, in his late 1950s advice to tourists visiting Britain, said 'Upon entering a railway compartment, be sure to shake hands with all the occupants', so he recognised that commuters are hardly an outgoing lot.

    Mind you, he also said 'All British brothels display blue lights'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gerard Hoffnung's advice

      They've found a buyer of New Scotland Yard then?

    2. SiempreTuna
      Thumb Up

      Re: Gerard Hoffnung's advice

      Was that the guy who had a chapter on the "Sex and the British" which was, in its entirety "The continentals have sex lives. The British have hot water bottles".

      And the sequel, a few years later, said "The continentals still have sex lives. The British now have electric blankets".

  9. Irongut Silver badge

    I also get asked where London commuter trains go when I'm on them. Always fun since I'm from Glasgow and have no idea where any London train goes (apart from the one I'm on going to or from our office near Twickenham). The look of dismay on the inquirer's face when they hear my accent is usually amusing though.

  10. Blah McBlahson

    It's actually Derren Brown who said you should rub the seat next to you. Or it may well be someone else too, but Derren definitely said that.

    And, loving the choice of watching Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged. Classic.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only person on the tube train that I want to strike up a conversation with me is the stunningly attractive woman who gets on at the station after mine. I guess the chances of that happening are approximately nil :-(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: "the stunningly attractive woman who gets on at the station after mine"

      Thanks for sharing your insightful comments. I'm sure there are dozens of people reading this right now, thinking "Oh Yes! I get on the tube. and some days there is a stunningly attractive woman who gets on at a certain stop. Perhaps this is the same person neck beard fat nerd who is staring at her?"

      or are you just trying to make a point about IT Geeks, being hopeless losers who don't have a girlfriend? Oh, I get it. The irony!?

      Please go back to youtube comments section where you belong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: "the stunningly attractive woman who gets on at the station after mine"

        Blimey, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?

    2. Anonymous John

      I did that on a Virgin train to Manchester last week with some pretext for addressing her by name.

      Handy tip #94. If you want to be anonymous, don't use the SSID "xxxxx's iPhone".

  12. Antoinette Lacroix

    It's true, people still talk in public transport

    . . only the topics seem to have changed. If I had a penny for every time someone mentioned Youtube or Facebook, I could stay at home.

  13. Karl H

    blah blah blah

    here's to listenning to Cliff Richard singing "Its not funny why we don't talk anymore" and "Wired for sound" back in the mid 80's on a Sony Walkman on the slow train out of Liverpool Street Station , when I first worked out that talking to strangers on a train had you marked down as a complete nutter, and hence no one talked. Especially not then coz mobile phones were brick sized and only affordable by a few yuppies.

    Yes I probably am nuts, but no , I don't listen to Cliff . HONEST !

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twat shouting into phone on train one day: "Yeah guy I'm just getting my croissant man. Yeah I'm off to the airport to get to Oz toot suite man, yeah!"

    To which my usually very quiet and reserved wife, forgot where the volume knob on her voice was and repeated it back very loudly, word for word, all the people around her laughed, she went bright red when she realised what's she'd said. It worked though, the twat in question, suitably humilated, skulked off to another carriage.

  15. TrishaD


    On the odd occasion that I have to make an early morning Wiltshire - London train journey, I really dont want to talk to anyone. Anyone at all. My usual practice is to plug in the iPod, insert headphones to muffle the noise, switch iPod off and go to sleep.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Headphones

      ... and go to sleep ...

      ... waking up hours later to realise not only have I missed my stop, but I've dribbled out the corner of my mouth, got a raging hard on and some sod's nicked my coat.

  16. Arachnoid
    Thumb Down

    Geez some of you guys need to lighten up,you only make friends by talking to strangers .......

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      My mum told me to never do that. And so did the priest, come to think of it..


  17. damonlab

    Antisocial much?

    I don't know why none of you can't be bothered striking up a conversation with somebody. It all sounds very antisocial and lacking of people skills.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Antisocial much?

      yes it seems wrong to me too. Back in the olden days people were far more sociable and would always talk to each other on the steam trains. I think it's got something to do with people don't wear hats anymore. Back in the old days people would wear big hats and tip them at each other and say "good day sir" I saw that on TV

    2. Long John Brass Silver badge

      Re: Antisocial much?

      In fact it's the exact opposite.

      In a city the size of London and given the number of people

      You cannot say hello to everyone you meet; you would go mad & hoarse very quickly

      Giving people a little privacy & personal space by "ignoring" them, is in fact a form of politeness.

      A polite smile & nod to people I saw on my regular commute always seemed well received though

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Antisocial much?

      No, it's because Extroverts can be a Noisy, Stressful, Pain in the Backside, because us thinkers (introverts) absolutely detest quantum (very small) talk about nothing of consequence, and would much rather chill doing what calms or interests us; so SFU!

      Pick a venue where people go to socialize/work to prompt conversation, and stop assuming that everyone wants to talk when you do!

    4. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Antisocial much?

      Not so much antisocial as often busy or tired. It isn;t about never talking, it's about when and to whom. On the middle leg of a flight about 4 weeks ago (ATL to LAX) I got sat with a first time flyer, the first leg had been bad for turbulence so I knew more was on the way. So yeah I spoke with her during the flight, made sure she was ok when it got silly, made sure she knew what takeoff and landing would be like but respected when she looked like she wanted to read or watch TV, just like she respected when I was working. There are times when I don't mind talking (I spent a 7 hour flight talking pretty much the entire way to a sports physio, he was interesting and wanted to talk), but you have to look at a person and figure out if they want to. You cannot just land next to someone and expect them to entertain you the entire flight. First is a ****ing nightmare for that, you;d think its nice and quiet but stateside 1st seems to have way too many deputy vice presidents in charge of post utilised grail scouring all trying to out Breitling each other, business is normally full of people trying to work or sleep because they have more work waiting when they get off the plane. Coach is hit and miss, you either get normal folks, folks from business who couldn't get a seat or you get bingo wings.

      It simply boils down to having respect for your fellow passengers, some people are all about themselves, others understand. Such is life.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    London trains have always been bastions of non-communication

    Especially the tubes. Anyone attempting to communicate is immediately considered a dangerous loony.

    The suburban services, perhaps a nod is ok. On the buses, one might even exchange a few words --- but only Saaarth of The River, and everybody (especially those who live South of the River) know that that isn't really London.

    When I started driving to work, I found it refereshing, because motorists actually communicate with each other. It may not be polite, but it really is better than the communal glassy stare.

  19. Autonomous Cowherd

    Tube trolling

    A couple of my friends are proper Londonites. I enjoy trolling them (not at rush hour) by being moderately active, looking around at other travellers and talking to them (my friends) on the tube. Its like nails on a chalkboard to them. I love my friends dearly, but I will continue my personal crusade to break the London conditioning.

    I think people are missing a trick though. If we got used to exchanging pleasantries with the people we travel with (for two hours a day, every day of the week especially for longer overland commutes going into London), perhaps we would build a business network. Respect each others desire to not talk, of course, but everyone is feeling the same, so shouldn't we all be friends? (Then I can troll you too :-D )

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Tube trolling

      Not living in London, you may be unaware that 99 times out of 100 when people introduce themselves to you on the Tube and begin talking, it's only about 5 seconds before they ask you for money. Commuters get tired of it and just switch off.

  20. Jeffrey Jefferson

    +1 for "you can't shut the fuckers up"

    Try being on a train from Newcastle to Leeds, 20 geordie lads all getting pissed up at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

  21. Danny 14

    And if you think London is bad then dont even think about talking to people on the NY tube. They probably would stab you.

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