Like many people all over the country, and perhaps the world, I have to commute to work. Usually this is ok, depending on where I am going, how far, for what purpose and what time of the day. Usually I do not have to travel at the extremes of the day, although the other week I had a three-hour commute (each way!) to the far flung reaches of the realm which meant getting a 6 am train. Arguably this is a violation of my human rights, but as I am blessed with an interesting and varied ‘portfolio’ career involving different types of work in different places, I really cannot complain. So I won’t. Besides, once I was on the train I had time to relax, sleep, cogitate etc., so it was no really that bad. Sitting on trains is actually one of the few times where I have time to myself to do nothing, as I am not one of those who is obsessed by their mobile phone and I find working on a laptop on a train one of life’s non-pleasures.
So, recently I was on my way to work in some rather inclement weather, worse than usual, which resulted in the normally reliable train not moving. Well, it did eventually, but only sitting at the station for 15 minutes, limping out of the station briefly, stopping in the middle of nowhere for another 15 minutes before it deigned to carry on as usual. To be fair, the weather was more than grim, the driver kept us updated and apologised for our horrible, awful journey, pleaded with us to still love the service, like we apparently always should, almost breaking down when he said that it was not his fault, there was a signalling/points/atmospheric/existential consequentialist problem and that the engineers would sort it asap. To be fair, we did get moving eventually and as I had left early I was only 30 minutes late for work, which was actually still early but not by my usual margin.
Sitting on that train on that particular morning got me thinking. As we all sat there going nowhere, I reflected on how some things are beyond our control and getting upset and worked up does not change the situation. I know that some of my fellow passengers were less stoical than I, and the ubiquitous mobile phones were in great abundance and decibel. It is usually less than interesting hearing others’ inane telephone conversations, and yet again my theory was proved right. I am not quite sure why small metal boxes of electronica have such a fascination for many commuters, but obviously they do. Frankly I seem to be missing something but maybe I am not like the other children and need an urgent referral to the appropriate helping organisation or social services department.
But I digress. I think what I am trying to say is that when things go wrong that are out of one’s control there is no point getting vexed, angry or worse – bad things happen in life and being a few minutes late for whatever is really not the end of the world. People do get rather het up about such things, which can then lead to uncomfortable and unwanted situations and potentially unpleasant consequences for all involved. Obviously conflict resolution techniques like mediation can sort out such un-pleasantries but – at the risk of being maverick – ideally this should be avoided in the first place. So, when next tempers and tensions rise, take a deep breath, don’t get too miffed when things happen that are beyond your control, keep the decibels down and let is pass. Especially if you are sitting on my train…
Consultant psychiatrist with extensive medicolegal, managerial and judicial expertise acting as medical consultant to ASM and an accomplished linguist and academic.