Of all the challenges of traveling on a packed London underground train (personal space, smells, protecting my skull, having the Daily Mail within my line of sight, etc) there’s none I struggle with more than people trying to talk to me when I’m within kissing distance of them.

Fortunately, this happens rarely; my earphones and half asleep demeanor usually serving as an effective conversational barrier.

This morning my commute was an hour later than normal, a mistake I won’t make again after spending 12 minutes wedged between several hundred other people also trying desperately hard to semi-permanently breathe-in, thus making their bodies smaller than usual and less likely to come into contact with body parts that aren’t their own.

After elbowing the same lady in the head twice, I took it upon myself to remove an earphone (to remove both would be an invitation to converse) and apologised. She took it in good grace, and started to talk about how the train seemed busier than normal. This was a lovely thing for a stranger on a train to do of course.

Polite conversation ensued, but with another dialogue taking place in my head: “You’re too close to have this conversation! She’s missed a bit of makeup on the edge of her nose! Back away, back away!”

It’s absolutely lovely that people are prepared to talk to total strangers, and had we been an hour earlier, it would have made that part of the commute far more enjoyable than normal.

As it was, I had a 5 minute discussion squished up against a glass partition, engaging in conversation at a distance I’d only expect my wife to suffer.

I need some of those giant over-ear headphones. The ones that make you look like Mickey Mouse on a bad ear day. Unless you’re Minnie Mouse, they definitely don’t invite conversation.


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