The public transport system by its very nature is a hellish experience, lots of unknown people crammed onto buses and trains like cattle is hardly likely to be uplifting. I have had pleasant discussions and met some really nice people on trains when they are willing to talk. But some are so tightly wound they will refuse to even make even minimal eye contact. However it doesn't need to be this way, you can add a little bit of joy to your life by trying out the following idea.

If you have a friend who you travel with, you can organise little pieces of theatre for your fellow commuters, otherwise known as 'fucking with their heads.' The following act has been played out a number of times by a few friends and myself and is simple to arrange. All you need is one regulation London Transport train carriage in its usual state of deathly silence and two seats opposite each other.

Firstly you must bide your time and allow the commuters to assume that you are part of the herd, you must blend into the upholstery and refuse to communicate with your friend, plenty of time for that later.

Player One: Crosses his leg in a theatrical manner, brushing the sole of his shoe on the knee of player two invariably leaving a dusty mark.

Player Two: 'Do you mind?' brushing at his knee in an irate manner.

At this point the eyes of everyone on the carriage will be on you, so keep cool and play the scene out with a straight face.

P1: 'Of course not, it would be my pleasure' unfolds his leg and re-crosses in the opposite direction repeating the dusty mark.

P2: Stands up and in a loud and irate voice says 'What the hell do you think you’re playing at?'

P1: Stands up and in a lighthearted manner replies 'I'm doing a pretty good job of winding you up.'

At this point you may wish to ad lib an argument or fight for the benefit of your totally shocked and spell bound audience. The end of the scene however is where you can leave a permanent impression on them...

P1: 'Look, I'm sorry, how about we just kiss and make up?'

P2: Initially wary, but decides to end the situation... 'Hmmm, OK'

P1: Must now with a completely straight face embrace player two and land a full kiss directly on his lips.

P2: Initially struggles, but soon joins in.

The best thing you can do at this point is to exit stage right and be at your station, otherwise the audience will begin to suspect something is amiss, leave them wanting more.

A popular story about Alfred Hitchcock: if he found himself in a crowded elevator with a companion, he would maintain the usual elevator silence, and then, as they reached their floor and began to leave, he would turn to his friend and say, just loudly enough to be heard, "I never imagined he'd have so much blood in him," or some variation.

Inspired by this, I have cultivated the habit, when leaving the subway car earlier than one of my bandmates (which occurs at least twice weekly), of calling back over my shoulder to him, as the doors close, any of the following:

  • "Next time, we'll wash the goat first!"
  • "Make sure you get those sores checked out!"
  • "Don't forget to feed the, ah... special guest!"
  • "From now on, you have to bring your own bucket!"
  • "Don't worry about the choking, all it takes is practice!"
  • "Remember, it's your turn to clean up the seats afterwards!"
  • "I'm sure all six of us can lift him, probably!"
  • "Good job on that bone scraping!"

...and, one of my favorites...

  • "I'm very confident that God is on our side, and will forgive us!"

You get the idea. Strangely, although the same friend is almost always my target, he has never attempted to exact revenge or pre-empt my inevitable attacks.

Not yet, anyway.

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