Homo Stultus

In theory I can drive as I passed my test; however I have never owned a car. As a result it's around thirteen years since I last found myself behind the wheel of a large automobile. I've probably forgotten how to do it. The thing is there's no space for a car where I live at the moment and the advantages of sticking to public transport or cycling around far outweigh the disadvantages.

Not that you'd think that from the way I whinge on and on about it. But the important thing to take on board is that there's nothing wrong with cycling per se or travelling by train per se.

The problem is that you have to engage in these activities alongside members of what sometimes seems to be the planet's dominant species, Homo Stultus ("Stupid Man"). Queuing to buy a ticket behind a member of this species can drive you to premature distraction. However, the problems don't cease once you've bought your ticket.

Firstly, Homo Stultus always has a problem with the seat numbering. Now I don't have difficulty understanding that there are two seats numbered 20 in a carriage - one facing the direction of travel and one not. However, every single bloody time I travel by long distance train, which always involves seat reservations, you can be certain that at every stop a brace of brain-dead individuals will get on and walk clumsily up the aisle peering first at the reservation tickets on the seats and then at the tickets in their hands before declaiming "Excuse me, I think you're in my seat!" in a sickeningly self-righteous tone of voice.

You know the voice I mean. It's that strident tone of moral superiority adopted by the British when they think they've got the law or "common decency" on their side and therefore feel that it's safe to speak up.

It's great fun deflating the users of the voice, which is why I find it relatively easy to call upon my limited reserves of calm as I patiently explain to them the difference between the letter F and the letter B.

What is even more enjoyable is the sight of the expressions on the faces of people who haven't reserved a seat when they enter the carriage. The stunned disbelief as they realise that every single one of these seats has a little "reserved" slip sticking out of the top and the slow realisation that they're going to have to stand all the way to Edinburgh combine to form a very fine vintage of schadenfreude indeed.

However, the feeling rarely lasts. Going to the toilet on a train is uncomfortable enough without the illiteracy of your fellow passengers intruding upon it. But no, more often than not I'll be sitting there, door locked, knees uncomfortably wedged against the sink then someone tries the door. Then kicks it. Then tries it again. Excuse me, but what part of the word "Engaged" do you not understand?


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