If Hell is other people, then public transport is the modern day equivalent of a ferryboat across the River Styx.
In principle, communal transportation is great, connecting society and reducing isolation. The clue is in the word communal. A person is fine, but when they multiply and become people then I find myself thrust into the role of an alien sent to Earth who is trying desperately to fit in, but failing.
Extended contact with groups of people – especially in the close confines of a bus or train carriage – increases the odds of confrontation exponentially.
Case in point: I had to get the bus to work for the first time recently. I had hitherto not even been aware that such a service existed, never mind patronised it. It was a journey of 12 miles, but the duration given was 74 minutes. That was my first warning and, tragically, it went unheeded.
I got on board, no-one foaming at the mouth, no-one making eye contact. I also desisted from both activities and time passed.
Suddenly a distressed man appeared wearing a high-vis jacket. My initial wild thought was that he was the driver. “Where do we go at this roundabout?” I looked at him with no small amount of alarm. “Eh? I’ve no idea – I’ve never been on this bus before.” He narrowed his eyes in suspicion: “What?”
“I’ve no idea where to go. Surely the bus driver knows.”
“Well he doesn’t,” he snapped. “You’re a fat lot of use, aren’t you?”
“What?” I felt my mind become unglued, but there was no further explanation. High-vis man had lurched up the bus, swinging from one hand-strap to the next like a furious chimp. He angrily challenged an old couple who looked like post-Brexit Britain – horrified and confused.
“Where do we go?” he barked at them. “Who?” asked the old man. “Where?” asked his wife. “You people are killing me,” screamed High-vis.
Disastrously, two nearby youths then began to laugh from their noses – high-pitched whining cackles which were all nostril.
High-vis promptly lost it, screaming: “This is serious you idiots – where do we go?”
His eyes were crossed with discordant fury as the bus drove over the top of the roundabout.
“Right, that’s enough for me,” I said, pressing the bell to stop.
So ended my last trip on the bus.
I decided to catch the train the following day.
Fifteen minutes into that journey and we were parked in a siding, in a stifling hot carriage packed to the gunnels with cross commuters.
Suddenly a man – wearing glasses so thick they would have voted Trump – bellowed: “I cannae take enclosed spaces. I’m going to have a panic attack!”
As I looked around for something with which to bludgeon him into unconsciousness, I realised I probably wasn’t suited to public transport.
Sartre was only partly right – Hell is other people: public transport and me.
Alan Muir lives in Cumbernauld. He tweets as @alanmuir74 and blogs at https://caobs.wordpress.