I Spent An Hour Talking To Strangers On The Tube And Heard The Most Painfully Awkward Story
Action hero extraordinaire Liam Neeson is back on the big screen, this time in the gripping new thriller, ‘The Commuter’, which follows his character’s involvement in a murder conspiracy after being approached by a mysterious woman on his daily train commute.
In celebration of this, I decided to approach random people on the London Underground to uncover a compelling story of my own…
Nobody likes their commute, especially if it’s on the London Underground; it’s hot, it’s jam-packed full of zombiefied city workers who look like they’d rather be in bed, and it’s impossible to avoid making eye-contact with people, which is like a painfully awkward glimpse into their soul.
Here’s proof of how busy it usually is:
London commuters are notorious for keeping themselves to themselves (seriously, I sometimes wonder whether someone would help me if I broke my leg) but if Michael (Liam Neeson) can respond to a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) who tells him he’s got an hour to find someone on the train who doesn’t belong there, then surely someone would answer me – a plucky journalist – and provide me with an interesting anecdote.
I only had 60 breathless minutes, so I set off frantically, approaching people like some kind of possessed, full-time tube dweller, while asking them for any and every commuting titbit they might have for me.
Most people looked at me like I was mental (I wonder if Liam Neeson had to put up with these funny looks?), although fortunately some commuters were cooperative, sharing many a curious story.
One chap on the District Line told me that he once got on the tube and sat opposite a man in gym-wear who had his testicles dangling out of his shorts for the entirety of the journey, while a girl on the Central Line said she saw an intoxicated man tucking into a portion of McDonald’s chips, only to drop them all over the floor before nonchalantly picking the scattered fries up and placing them back in their holder to continue eating them as though nothing had happened.
Funny tales, sure, but I needed something a little more gripping to be able to rival the plights of Liam Neeson in The Commuter.
Time was running out. Luckily, if my efforts were fruitless I’d just go back to the office with my head held in shame, but in The Commuter, Michael is told that if he fails, it’s his family that’ll pay the ultimate price. I’d crumble under such high-stakes.
The clock was ticking. I only had 10 minutes left before I’d have to face the wrath of my editor for a potentially humiliating dressing-down.
But then, out of nowhere, I noticed a man stood there on his own like a beacon of light illuminating my desperate investigation.
I explained my situation, and whether it was sheer luck or divine intervention from the commuting gods, he revealed the following gem of a story to me.
He explained that he had a mate who was running late for a job interview in Central London after oversleeping one morning. A nightmare situation, made all the more worse given that it was one of those awful, wet mornings where everyone’s in a foul mood.
Apparently, this friend was also feeling particularly irritable, which was probably due to the fact he had potentially blown an opportunity for a job he really wanted.
After rushing into a cab and finally making it to London Victoria station – an infamously busy station at 8:30 am – he managed to purchase a ticket before proceeding to battle through hordes of commuters who were stood waiting to board their trains.
Despite the station being packed, the friend – mindful of his lateness – started pushing past commuters to make his way to the front of the platform, offering half apologies under his breath to the people he was moving in front of who had been standing there for a while.
He made it to the front of the platform just as the next train was pulling in to open its doors. Although crammed, only one person got off, meaning there was just enough space for one more commuter.
Without hesitation, he leaped onto the carriage in the place of the person who disembarked, jumping in front of countless other people in the process.
It goes without saying that this irked a number of people, but one gentleman in particular took offence at the move.
The gentleman angrily pointed to the fact that he and a number of others had been waiting there for much longer than the friend, and that what he had done was selfish.
The friend, in his irritable state, wasn’t really in the mood for this, so he snapped at the gentleman and called him something which I won’t repeat in this article.
The man on the platform clapped back and the two traded insults for a good minute or so at the top of their voices until the carriage doors closed, at which point the slanging match ended and the friend went on his way to the interview.
Forgetting all about the incident, the friend arrived at the interview 20 minutes late where he was told to sit in the waiting room for the boss who was also running behind schedule.
The friend spent the next ten minutes or so composing his thoughts and mentally preparing for the interview, when suddenly, the boss came bursting through the door looking rather flustered.
It was at that point, apparently, the friend’s stomach dropped.
It was the man he’d had a blazing row with on the train platform just 30 minutes before.
With a wry smile, the man greeted him and invited him into a room.
At no point did either of them mention what had happened, but as you can imagine, the interview was a lot briefer than the friend expected.
Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.
I returned back to my office a very relieved and very amused man.
That’s not just my favourite commute story, that might be my favourite story ever. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a happy ending.
Whether The Commuter has a happy ending or not, I couldn’t possibly disclose, but what I will say is that there’s infinitely more action and suspense in Liam Neeson’s commute than there was on mine, so I suggest you go and see it for a properly intense, breakneck thriller, and one that you don’t have to pester loads of people to see.
Make sure you check out The Commuter, in cinemas 19/01/2018.
Images via StudioCanal