1. travel to and from one’s daily work, usually in a city, especially by car or train
2. change (a judicial sentence etc) to another less severe.
According to Joe Moran’s wonderfully entertaining piece of pop-sociology, Queuing for Beginners, the bored commuter has become a symbol of the drudgery of daily life. If, like me, you have braved the perils of London’s public transport system with its frequent hiccups and full-scale breakdowns, you’ll understand why.
Scientific studies have shown that the humble commuter undergoes more stress than a fighter pilot despite being in no imminent danger – only the wrath of an irate boss should they turn up late. The reason? Unlike the fighter pilot, the urban traveller has no control over what happens to him. He is powerless.
Now I live in Prague, my journey to work has ceased to be a chore and has instead become one of the minor highlights of my day. For a start, it’s much shorter. As I’ve said before, Prague is far more compact city than London: there’s none of that “I must allow an hour to get anywhere, even if it’s ten minutes down the road as the crow flies” or “Whipps Cross? No problem. I’ll just get a bus, train, hop on the DLR then flag down a camel.”
My last post may have had a (metaphorical) elephant in it but I was joking about the camel. However, I did spot four camels grazing on the outskirts of Letna from the window of the tram the other day.
No, Ms Girlova hasn’t been dropping acid. They belong to the circus.
I don’t have to venture underground for my commute but I love the metro tunnels with their metallic tiles that seem to belong in a science-fiction film. Before you get down to the platform, those endless escalators have to be negotiated. They do offer male passengers certain delights which have not escaped the attention of a certain Ricky and Richard – see the comments on my last post to discover what I mean…
I travel by tram. As many Czechs still operate on Austro-Hungarian time and are at their desks (or company-sponsored English lessons) by 7:30am, I usually get a seat. Now I can stare out of the window and watch Prague strobe past the glass. Man cannot live on architecture alone but I delight in those pretty little details – a couple of svelte caryatids or a gilt decorative swirl – at eight in the morning.
My tram ride takes me along the river. On the other side I can see a tiny stone General Zizkov sitting on his horse; he looks like he belongs on a girl’s charm bracelet. Then there’s the TV Tower, a giant alien ray gun left behind by fleeing UFOs where vineyards once were. Soon afterwards there’s the Art Wall where a few months ago they had giant photos of men hanging themselves or perhaps they were being hung? It was a bit too provocatively disturbing for first thing in the morning.
We fly across the Vltava. There’s that king of the Castles looking picture-postcard perfect as always. I’m doing what all commuters do: daydreaming of escape, worrying about work, wasting energy reflecting on unsolvable difficulties but as I look about of the window, I feel soothed.
As a one-time Londoner now living in Prague, my journey to work is a daily reminder that my sentence has been commuted to a less harsh one.
This last sentence doesn’t communicate anything except my desire to end with a stylistic flourish.