Monday, 25 January 2016

How sad and lonely does your life have to be, when you drink two beers alone on the train?


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?


6 comments:

Bioblogist said...

While I can't defend the judgemental comments I think a lot of the complaints are ones I've had whenever I've seen a group of "rowdy" folk on a train. They are going to be annoying and loud irrespective of alcohol but the cans of stella simply confirm you're journey is going to feel a lot longer than it is. But it's the large groups of people having fun (if unlucky at your expense) that's the problem, the alcohol only makes it worse in the sense it amplifies their mood. But it is public transport (I know I tried to avoid after football transport if possible).
One of the tweets about "how sad and lonely do you have to be to drink 2 cans of beer alone on the train" seems even worse if the tweeter was talking about themselves. How awful to feel bad about doing something that is harmless (I'm assuming they didn't have another 10 during their commute home). If the tweet was about another commuter I can only think "how sad and lonely does someone have to be to watch and count the number of beers someone has on a train?"

anniecee said...

Brilliant piece of writing, Emma!

Some folk can’t tell the difference between what their formed opinion is and what reality is and lines are blurred. What they don't realise is, their own opinion is not actually a universal reality. Yep! some believe that having train beers are an example of bad behavior, quickly gathering perceptions from their own backgrounds and feel justified to look down their noses and feel holier than thou as typing out the tweet. Instead of seeing their own multitude of judgments, they see it as a truth and think it's ok. But by doing this are subliminally creating a separation (them and us).

Is this a class thing, a socio economic divide where it's ok to neck half a bottle of vino while cooking the risotto but not enjoy a few cans on the train (where it's going is irrelevant), yes I think it possibly is. People who don't follow the social norms of society are often judged, drinking in the AM? Must be an alcoholic. Drinking out of a can? Degrading. Drinking alone? How sad and lonely. Drinking beer altogether, how very working class!

How do we fix this? This is super complex. Change in social norms occurs organically over time, as history/pop culture shows. In the instance of train beers, it's no different to, for example, when men grew long hair in the 60's. Folk tut tutted and used different platforms to make their judgements heard but it's essentially the same (sans social media). I say keep drinking the train beers, they are a relaxing and refreshing gift to the beer lover, and most importantly for this shift to occur, keep sticking it to the man, one salty kiss or gamma ray at a time!!

TLDR? Refer to last line!
Cheers!
Annie

anniecee said...

Brilliant piece of writing, Emma!

Some folk can’t tell the difference between what their formed opinion is and what reality is and lines are blurred. What they don't realise is, their own opinion is not actually a universal reality. Yep! some believe that having train beers are an example of bad behavior, quickly gathering perceptions from their own backgrounds and feel justified to look down their noses and feel holier than thou as typing out the tweet. Instead of seeing their own multitude of judgments, they see it as a truth and think it's ok. But by doing this are subliminally creating a separation (them and us).

Is this a class thing, a socio economic divide where it's ok to neck half a bottle of vino while cooking the risotto but not enjoy a few cans on the train (where it's going is irrelevant), yes I think it possibly is. People who don't follow the social norms of society are often judged, drinking in the AM? Must be an alcoholic. Drinking out of a can? Degrading. Drinking alone? How sad and lonely. Drinking beer altogether, how very working class!

How do we fix this? This is super complex. Change in social norms occurs organically over time, as history/pop culture shows. In the instance of train beers, it's no different to, for example, when men grew long hair in the 60's. Folk tut tutted and used different platforms to make their judgements heard but it's essentially the same (sans social media). I say keep drinking the train beers, they are a relaxing and refreshing gift to the beer lover, and most importantly for this shift to occur, keep sticking it to the man, one salty kiss or gamma ray at a time!!

TLDR? Refer to last line!
Cheers!

Annie

The Maltese Penguin said...

Does the TfL takeover of a lot more rail services mean that alcohol will be banned on many more trains now? In Scotland, drinking on trains (and visible alcohol) is banned from 2100 to 1000. Hmm, invisible alcohol? I suppose the canny will be pouring their voddy into a bottle of coke.

I like a beer on a train if I'm going a distance, sadly few of my trips merit it.

Curmudgeon said...

You are quite right here - people can be incredibly judgmental about others drinking alcohol at times and locations that they don't feel are appropriate.

As you say, there is a class element about it. It's something that vulgar people do. I do remember, though, when I used to regularly make long-distance train journeys, often coming across groups of squaddies on leave passes with a pyramid of cans on the table. Generally totally harmless.

Chris Emma said...

Thanks for commenting

Neil: Actually, I need to check back on the tweet I used for the title as I saw something else associated with it which made me feel certain that it was intended to be judgmental toward someone else, rather than themselves. But you make a good point nonetheless.

Annie: Cheers! I shall definitely continue drinking on the train in a responsible fashion and set a proud example. We shall raise some train beers in your general direction in the near future.

Maltese Penguin: I definitely thought the same as you about tfl taking over the trains in greater London. It can't come soon enough for me (whether they allow alcohol consumption or not) as Southern are a truly awful service provider. As I said I can live without being able to have a beer on the way home from work. If need be, I'd go for a beer before getting on the train home. I also saw the regulations for Scotrail - I'd be interested to see if people actually take any notice or if it is enforced.

Curmudgeon: When I think about it more, it's the people saying 'we don't normally go to pubs' in a really dismissive, condescending way as if people who go to pubs are sub-human disgusts me even more than the people being judgmental about drinking on trains. I'd just like for people to be able to tell the difference between a large group banging down shots and being very loud and disruptive, and one or more people drinking a few cans of beer without being loud and obnoxious.

Ems