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The Commute

So, who is looking forward to the return to the office and the commute?

5th Mar 2021
By: Kevin Goldsmith
| Read Time: 3 min
 - Will+Partners
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I planned for this to be about 200-250 words but as I thought of my commute – it just seemed wrong not to include a little about the normal pre-Covid world journey as a comparison.

Some may say our office return is long overdue, others too soon; I personally will be looking forward to the face-to-face exchanges with colleagues, the incidental interactions with others, physical meetings and seeing more life, animation on the streets. However, to get to this there is the question of the travelling to get there, at least for most of us. When the call does go out from the Government – will we see the floodgates open and the rush to get back on trains, tubes and buses or will we all be cautious and want to try alternate forms? Will this be the rise of people walking, something the lockdown seems to have made popular again?

I have been fortunate to have tried my journey in during the last year, initially by car which over the course of 2 months turned form a comfortable 45 min drive to what sitting in traffic and taking almost double that. So, I headed back to the train to see that was like. Suffice to say it was an interesting experience.

The previous norm was an early a.m. start; unsocially distanced; carefully placed maneuvering on the platform for the right spot by where we think the door will be, this is followed by a surge forward, touching shoulders and bags, with polite smiles and nods and a combined ‘’Huff’’ when someone wants to get off, returning to the surge to be first on. This is followed by the swift and agile shuffling to the one vacant seat, in between the ‘sleeper’ and the ‘man-spreader’, with the look of I dare you to sit there, so I puff out and squeeze in shoulders back and I’m in. Everyone has their phones out heads down. No interaction, everyone in their own world looking like there dreading the next 30 mins all too hot or cold jammed in like cattle. Once you arrive, we return to the careful maneuvering and feel of release when you step off the train only to trudge slowly towards freedom once you are through the barriers. The mood lightens as you spread out a little and another group ‘’HUFF’’ when the barriers do not release their victims swiftly. For some, they must do this all again on the underground, only its worse! Do you like me have the privilege to walk to the office- out on the streets amongst the pollution and traffic and noise, but at least we are free.

The current norm for those who have attempted it, is a completely different experience.There is no huddling around the spot where you think the doors will be, it is a gamble how long the train might be! So, we loiter away from the others, yes, the two others waiting, we are so far apart now it seems that semaphore is the only chance of acknowledging them. There is no surge to be the first and bag the seat, you step on and look for the Holy Grail that is the seat, if your lucky you have thirty or more to choose from if not then Twenty-Five. The only person on there looks up only to check your wearing your mask. You panic as you have so much choice, forward facing, by the window, in block of four or six, what if others want to sit there, you make your choice and worry others will get on. You still sit there with your phone out in your own world, but at peace that its you and three others only once you leave the last stop. The arrival is met with little ceremony, for some they know the Tube or Bus awaits them, but I have the same walk as before, but the experience will be very different, less noise, little traffic, people socially distancing or moving aside. Much is closed, there does not seem to be the same rush and franticness there was before. But the big thing I notice was birdsong, I could hear birdsong in the city.

Will you be rushing back to five days of commuting; or will you take a more measured approach and limit the days or stagger the times and way you travel back in, how cautious will you be, or will you be brave and g full steam eager to get back?

I miss being part of the vibrant life of a city, and all the colour and noise, interactions and possibilities and I will return with a more measured approach, but I hope I get to keep hearing the birdsong.

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