I want to tell you about my day yesterday. It was shit. Now I use that term loosely because no one died so it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty shitty in the context of daily days.
Now before you think “Why do I want to read about your awful day? That doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend the next ten minutes…” I will tell you that there are questions at the end of it, and there is a point to my sharing.
So, here goes.
On a normal day I drive to work; it’s rarely pain free but it’s usually absolutely manageable. I potter around or rush around my office, depending on the intensity of the daily stresses, and then I drive home. Occasionally I have to work out of our office in central London, and those days are never fun. Today presented a whole new challenge; I went to Slough.
I got on the Overground at rush hour so had to stand, squashed up against the many other morning commuters. [Enter: Pain – Level one.]
I then got on the Underground to Paddington station, again, standing and squashed up against other commuters. [Enter: Pain – Level two.] Now, in case you’re not in London right now and not aware of our mini heat wave, this was all happening in 28 degree heat. The tube is horrendous at the best of times, but in the heat it’s a trillion times worse. So bad even The Telegraph wrote about it, so there you go. It’s not just me.
I exit the Underground at Paddington, grateful for the fact I will now be on a civilised overland train taking me to Slough. Wrong. Train is over-crowded and I am standing (again) in the vestibule squashed up against smelly commuters (again). [Enter: Pain – Level three.]
I arrive at Slough and do my job for about two hours, and then I get a taxi to a construction site to continue my work. Here I walk around a construction site – by this point with a migraine – in steel toe capped boots in the sweltering summer sun.
I get a lift to Slough station at the end of my day to find that all of the trains have been cancelled due to various faults on the lines. Damn. I walk to the bus station bracing myself for a long journey home on the M25. [Enter: Pain – Level four.]
I get to the bus station to realise I need the loo. Walk back to the station only to discover there is now one train going to London in 15 minutes from platform 5. Hurrah! Walk to platform 5 and discover half the world’s population crammed on to the platform. Somehow, in the sheer madness, I not only manage to get on the train but the most wonderful woman in the world gives up her seat so I’m not standing, once again, pressed up against commuters’ sweat patches.
So by this point the migraine still exists but at least I’m sat down. There are three of us sharing two seats, but one of the three is a child so I figure it’ll be fine. It’s not. He’s hot, he’s tired, and he wants the two seats to himself. I don’t blame him, I want the two seats to myself as well. He finally falls asleep when his mum gets up and stands for the duration of the journey. Bless her, how incredibly selfless? Pretty sure I’d have said “Shut up child, we’re all in hell, not just you. There’s no way out so budge up and let me sit down.”
The journey is long and at every station more people attempt to join the packed train. A fight breaks out. People swear. Someone on the platform faints. I have been sat in the same position for an hour which, I realise doesn’t sound tough in comparison to the pain of many people unable to get their trains home, but my god the pain in my left hip is excruciating. [Enter: Pain – level five.] I’m desperate to move and shift my weight but this is quite literally impossible. We are like sardines squashed together, but instead of brine we’re lying in shared sweat. It’s not pleasant.
Eventually the boy wakes up and cries. Great big fake crocodile tears. He’s really just screaming. The noise adds to the migraine, to the discomfort, but I can’t blame him. I want to cry great big fake crocodile tears too. I am screaming inside.
Finally we arrive at Paddington, and I then repeat the morning’s commute in the reverse direction. [Enter: Pain – levels six, seven and eight.]
I got home, obviously sore and still wiped with the migraine. Now for the questions…
Should I have said I can’t go to Slough due to the experience of eight separate instances of pain? No, surely not. It’s my job.
Should I have driven? No, traffic would be horrendous and migraine/pain scuppers me when I’m driving.
Is there a way I can prepare for using public transport in London? Am I doing something wrong? I know I can plan my journey times to avoid rush hour to a degree, but I still have to work in work time.
I know my condition isn’t that bad, not that I’m belittling it but there are people far worse off than me. How do people in wheelchairs or on crutches or with claustrophobia or a number of other health concerns cope with this hell? Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps you reach a certain level of pain (or level or sensibility?) and realise it’s time to take a different approach to travel. Is that the message from today? Perhaps.