|Part One: On commuting.
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
You wake up and put on your trousers and your shirt that you hung on the front of the wardrobe last night. You put the kettle on and sleepily chew your cereal, washing it down with juice. You check your watch, scald your tongue gulping down your tea which is too hot. You slip on your jacket, still reeking from the pub last night, you were only going in for a quick one but three rounds later and a ten-pack of fags, which you gave up last week, you still hadn't left. You wish you could air it out but you don't have time so you walk quickly to the station trying to outpace the smell. It doesn't work.
You buy a newspaper or pick up the free Metro or pull out your paperback. It doesn't matter really because like everyone else you won't withdraw your nose from it until you arrive at your workplace. Like everyone else, you don't see the pale dawn turning into daylight, the pink-tinged clouds over the rooftops, the birds wheeling through the sky. You feel the crisp morning chill and you note it, but only as the first of the day's impending irritations.
You board the train, looking for a seat near an aisle or an edge, as far away from other people as possible. You'd rather stand than sit next to someone who seems as though they might annoy or disturb you, or if you'd have to shuffle past them to get to a seat. You know that excessive noise is the worst sin you can commit on public transport in the morning. You know it is a sin reserved only for those so far gone on drink or drugs that they can be pitied, and for American tourists, who can safely be despised.
You don't stumble when the train lurches to a stop, even with your bag tucked between your feet. You take pride in your ability to keep your balance.
You have boarded the car that is closest to the station exit. You are proud of this knowledge, too, and the minute edge it gives you over the others who disembark here. You charge up the left side of the escalator, ready to roll your eyes at anyone ignorant or arrogant enough to be standing insufficiently close to the right-hand railing. You have your ticket or your Oyster card out and ready to slap into the gates.
You hit the streets. You don't see the traffic or the people or the buildings or anything other than the fastest route to your office. You follow it automatically. You look when you cross the street, but you never press crosswalk buttons. You know that the timing of your jaywalking is another point of pride, a tiny but important skill that you've cultivated, like keeping your balance on a moving train and knowing which car to be on and when to pull your ticket out of your pocket.
You sit in your chair at your desk, glowing with accomplishment. When the administrative assistant asks if you want tea, you smile and say yes.