The trouble with commuting – a funny story

I’m scared of quite a lot of things. I am absolutely petrified of spiders; alive, dead, plastic, or photographed. I cannot function near them and they give me nightmares on a regular basis. However, I’m also afraid (on a lower level) of a number of other things.  Here are a few examples:

#1 – Cockroaches 

#2 – Daddy-long-legs 

#3 – Pigeons 

#4 – Train doors closing on me 

#5 – Ticket barriers closing on me 

#6 – The gap between the train and the platform edge 

Today, in relation to this, something bad happened.

I was on the tube on the way in to Central London, slightly on edge because of points #4, #5 and #6 mentioned above. Once on the tube, I sat down in a carriage where there were two or three empty seats. I took one of them and the seat next to me remained empty. After about three station stops, I noticed a daddy-long-legs in the carriage. As you can imagine, I stiffened as soon as I noticed it. It darted around the carriage and I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat watching it, ready to leap up if it got too close.

After a few moments, we stopped at a station and a couple of people joined the carriage. The daddy-log-legs continued to flutter in that unpredictable way, and eventually settled on the arm of the woman who was making her way to the empty seat next to me. As she sat down I leapt up, deeply uncomfortable by the close proximity of this horrendous creature. Everyone in the carriage looked at me like I was bit odd as I darted to the end of the carriage and stood uncomfortably. My seat remained empty, and everyone in the carriage continued to give me really strange looks. In fact some of them looked pretty appalled by my sudden movement.

Some people were staring at me quizzically, some looked a bit uncomfortable whilst others were looking at the woman. She was looking in the opposite direction. It was then that I realised that everyone in the carriage was white, except for the woman with the daddy-long-legs on her arm who was black. Oh good God. Do they all think I’m a massive racist?? Do they think I leapt up because a black person sat next to me?! I stood feeling quietly uncomfortable, desperate to justify my behaviour to the rest of the carriage. But surely that would be even worse if they didn’t think I was a racist to begin with.

In the end I decided I had to go and sit back in my seat. But where was the daddy-long-legs? This was turning in to the most stressful tube journey of my life. I went and sat down, staring at the woman’s arm to search for the daddy-long-legs whilst trying not to look unnerved or twitchy. I eventually caught sight of it flapping away further down the carriage so sat back and relaxed.

The more I think about this, the more I wonder what the other passengers were thinking. Plus, why is it so abnormal to talk to people on the underground? Why didn’t I just say, “Uh oh, a daddy-long-legs!” Admittedly that may have caused total carnage as people with similar fears flapped about trying to avoid the little creature. And it’s not just daddy-long-legs… I once encountered a pigeon on the carriage of an overground train; I was so scared I left the train at the next stop and ran along the platform, rejoining the train in the next carriage along. This kind of hassle really adds a whole new dimension to the trouble with commuting.

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