|Two recent train/platform beer experiences|
There is a lot of judgment handed out to people who choose to drink beer on trains. It seems likely it is in the same ballpark as the pastime of judging people who drink in pubs as being socially inferior. I don't think I'm reaching too far if I suggest that this is a class issue.
In London drinking on public transport (any tfl/DLR service) was banned in 2008. It carries a maximum fine of £1000 and if you refuse to comply you can be arrested. However, drinking on National Rail is still perfectly legal (alcohol is sold on many intercity trains). But is it acceptable? Clearly not to everyone.
There are a number of assumptions frequently made about anybody drinking any beer on a train. For instance:
1. Drinking beer alone on a train means you are sad and lonely
2. Drinking beer on a train means you will be drunk on a train
3. There are certain circumstances in which it is acceptable to drink beer on a train
4. There are certain times when it is more acceptable to drink beer on a train
1. Let’s start with the quote in the title of this post – that drinking by yourself (on a train) is an indication of your quality of life, that drinking alone makes you sad and lonely.
Occasionally I’ll go to a pub and have a beer or two by myself. It feels pretty normal to me and not sad and lonely at all. I’ve been doing that for 20-odd years now and it’s completely unrelated to how many friends I have. In a mind-blowing twist I might do it precisely because I fancy some time alone. Or maybe it's because I have a bit of time to kill in between doing two different activities. Sometimes it’s because there is a particular beer I want to drink but I don’t feel like making a night of it; I just want to drink that beer and then go home instead of it becoming a social event. Other times I might be passing somewhere that has decent beer and decide to check what they have on – there might be something that’s too tempting to pass up. Then, even worse, I might occasionally have a beer on my own at home while I’m watching a film. Sometimes I'll choose to do this over going out with my friends. If that makes me sad and lonely then so be it. I'm not concerned by that label.
Have I had a beer on the train on my own? Of course I have. There have been a couple of rare occasions when I’ve had a beer on my normal ‘commuter’ train home but it wouldn’t really affect me if that was banned. But when it comes to getting on an intercity train for a weekend away (quite possibly for a beer-related event of some kind) then it’s likely I’ll have a beer regardless of whether I am alone or with others. That’s largely because the journey should be part of the overall occasion otherwise you’re just short-changing yourself. But after reading all of these judgmental tweets about it in the past few days I am now convinced that people have looked down me and my outrageous behaviour of drinking a train beer in silence while reading a book. Maybe they've even tweeted about my low moral character.
2. There seems to be an assumption that just because a person is drinking an alcoholic beverage on a train they are unavoidably going to behave in a manner which is antisocial and disruptive to other passengers. I bet my behaviour after drinking two beers on a train is far less disruptive and bothersome to my fellow passengers than that of the non-beer drinking person who continues a two hour phone call at the top of their voice, or the person who texts incessantly but has never bothered to turn the keypad tones off on their phone.
This weird, immature and puritanical attitude just displays a lack of life experience. To be clear, if a person does not wish to drink alcohol that's completely fine. But there shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that drinking any alcohol at all (remember this is a location where alcohol is being sold to customers) will turn a person into a loud disruptive passenger on a train. Because let’s face it, plenty of people manage to be raging arseholes on public transport every single day without so much as a whiff of ethanol being involved.
3. Why is drinking on your way to a sports event acceptable but say, drinking on your way to visit a mate for the weekend isn’t? Are we saying people get a pass for any poor behaviour if they’re going to a sports event? That we expect them (in advance) to behave in a less decorous fashion and we are ok with that? I call bullshit on that.
4. It’s more acceptable to drink on trains after certain times of day apparently. Seemingly, any time that ends in ‘am’ is a bad time (and yet pubs have traditionally opened at 11am so I don't see why drinking at 11.00am or 11.57am would be abnormal behaviour). As for the person complaining that people are drinking at 6 (presumably 6pm) I have no option but to believe that they exist in a world of rigid social structures where the only drinking they do is sanctioned by their peers and takes place within precisely defined time periods and environments.
It seems strange to me that in this age of shift work, working from home, job sharing and other kinds of flexible working that we seem to expect every single person we see in public to fit the 9am-5pm Monday to Friday work mould. But guess what? Some of the people you see on intercity trains drinking beers at unsavoury hours like 11.57am on a weekday might not even be working that day! That's right, they could be on holiday and therefore free to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on an intercity train in a responsible fashion if they choose to. It's not a crime and it's none of your concern unless they begin to be a nuisance. In fact, why not simply withhold our judgement until a fellow passenger becomes a nuisance?