Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Transport and London

I have a strange relationship with public transport, probably born out of the conflicting nature of my autism and my upbringing in East London. I was first put on a tube before I could crawl and so never really experienced any anxiety related to it until I was into my twenties. The problem, l discovered was not the tube itself but the attitude of the people using it, particularly at rush hour. The times I really struggled because I am terrified of the oncoming train (I have to turn my head away as they pull in) and so find it hard to cope with the commuter crush queueing for the next tube to appear. I like staying behind the yellow lines and waiting safely until the tube has fully stopped. Do that at rush hour and you'll never get on because every man and his dog is queueing right of the edge of the platform and pushing their way on to already heaving tubes.
I still massively prefer the train to buses however; the bus I find unpredictable and highly uncomfortable. I dislike any form of transport where I have to tell the driver to stop somewhere they're supposed to or they might not! I understand for the non standard stops but when it's one only the main stops and you fly past it because no one rang the bell and the driver didn't see anyone waiting it's a bit frustrating! There have been times I've been on a delayed train and wished it could just skip Knebworth and get me home to Hitchin quicker but the beauty of the train is that it doesn't,  generally speaking it does what it says and gets you to the exact place you knew you would end up - it's not like the station moves halfway through your journey!
My favourite form of transport is a closely run race between being driven (not driving myself as that requires a lot of concentration!) and flying. I adore flying and always get ridiculously excited at take off, the rush for the acceleration is brilliant - the only thing I've ever experienced that's better is the free fall when skydiving! 
I guess you could say I love movement, velocity and acceleration will always trump standing still with your face squashed against someone's arm (or worse!) On a plane you have a guaranteed seat, you have an alloted amount of room, you have order. On the train/bus at 5ft 4in I'm lucky if I can snag hold of something to help me stayed balanced whilst standing the whole journey (I prefer sitting on the floor but when you're sardined in that's not possible!) 
The thing is, and the main reason I'm writing this piece, is the knock on effect this can have on autistic people like me. What is an irritation to a normal commuter is a massive anxiety issue to me, while others get off a packed train/tube ready for work I need time to breathe, stim and sort my head out otherwise I'm a triggered agitated mess for hours. This is the argument I have to use when justifying my choice to buy a first class ticket if I'm coming to London before 9am - at least in 1st class I've got a chance of making it in still calm and ready to work! I'm lucky that my commute to work is a 5 minute drive (or 20 minute walk in the summer) and I don't often need to come to London early in the morning but when I do its for something important that is probably, on some level, making me nervous anyway. 
I love coming to London, I still feel at heart that it's my home and I have a great affection for Zone One and TFL, I just wish I could reconcile those feeling with the spin cycle my stomach goes through every time I approach a platform . . .

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