The Joy of Public Transport
One of the differences between medicine and other degrees is commuting. Whilst my flatmate's tutorials are a mere ten minute train journey from our flat, my current placement is on the other side of the city, so far on the other side of the city that it's actually in the next city up1. Normally, by a combination of trains and buses, I can get there in just over an hour2. After many hours people-watching I have discovered the secret to keeping calm whilst commuting, shortly to be published as a self help book entitled 'The Joy of Commuting - Learn how to maintain your Mental Health and love your Journey to Work' - soon to be available for only £7.99 at all good bookshops. Unfortunately I have less time so I will summerise the basic points.
Step One -
Shouting at the railway staff will not make your train appear on time, neither will rolling your eyes, nor telling the person next to you that the country is going to the dogs. The fact is that, once you are at the railway station or bus stop, nothing at all will get you there faster. When your train is delayed, or your bus is stuck in traffic you have two options.
Worry Worry about the time constantly and think about how late this is making you and what important things you are going to miss at work or university.
Don't worry Nothing at all, that you can do can change that. The best coping technique is denial. Don't look at your watch, or think at all about the implications of being late.
If you are used to being in control at work then accepting that you can't control your journey to work every day is difficult. I achieve this by not wearing a watch and turning my mobile phone off - whilst letting myself realise that I am not in the slightest responsible for this3.
Step Two, Free Your Mind
The fact is that an extraordinary amount of time is spent communting. One hour each way means that you have ten hours a weak with your mind being totally free. Is there something that you have always wanted to do but you just don't have the time to do? Why not try?
- Writing How often do you think 'I'd love to write an Edited Guide entry on Parrots, or perhaps a weekly colum for The Post?' If you are commuting on a bus or a train that doesn't have tables, then I would suggest using a small A5 hardback noteback, the spiral bouund sort, because you can lean on them and they're nice and discreet. The downside is that a lot of your writing tends to be on the subject of public transport.
- Reading This has the advantage that lots of other people are also reading so you don't get so many strange looks. One of the things that I most disliked about my degree was not having the time to read fiction - until I discovered commuting.
- Sleeping This is not always the most practical option, if your communte involves more than one means of transport. It also involves a risk that you might wake up at the end of the line, late for work.
- Daydreaming This requires no equipment, no odd looks from your fellow passengers and you could be anywhere in the world that you want to be.
Step Three - things could be worse
Many people find that the trials and tribulations of getting to work in the morning makes them feel negative. They often find that the problems with public transport are signs of the problems with the country. Reading a newspaper which highlights some problems with the country at the same time will not make you feel any better about things. Instead turn to the international news section and read about countries where things are, in fact, worse.