Mardy Mabel’s Public Transport Archetypes:  “The Only Child”

In Mardy Mabel’s second installment in the Public Transport Archetypes series, she looks at the irritating species, The Only Child…

*cough cough; does best David Attenborough voice*

And here we are, at the commuter’s natural habitat: The Train Station. If we just hide behind this broken bin, we have the perfect vantage point in which to see this breed in action during their ritualistic early morning routine. Presently, they all look quite similar: with their venti fair-trade wet cappuccino in hand, many fuss over picking up their free newspapers whilst others sit on benches applying make-up. Some tails twitch, anxious that someone has stood in their regular spot, whilst others keep their cards close to their chest, turning their attention to their iPhone and pretending they’re not a threat. This is the calm before the storm.

The warning horn is then honked as the arrival of the (probably late) train is announced, followed by its arthritic crawl in to the station. Ears prick up and elbows become sharp.

A gentle metamorphosis occurs as we begin to see a differentiation in the commuter species. Whilst some people wait for passengers to disembark, others impatiently force their way to the front of the queue – leaving those who enjoy a good old tutt to sing the song of their martyrdom.

But there’s one type who thinks they’re wily. Not only that, but they also think they’re sort of invisible too. Here we have “The Only Child.” Fueled by their sense of entitlement, this narcissistic creature pushes themselves on to the train as if God made it just for them. Once on, their selfish barging triggers their homing device which zones in on the priority seat and magnetically pulls them towards it. If empty they plonk themselves down like they have the divine right to sit there despite not looking like a fat woman, a woman co-joined with another person or a man with a cane auditioning for “Top Hat” (as the priority seat picture would suggest.) One of the most frustrating breeds of the commuter types, The Only Child began life with the amazing ability to clearly pronunciate the words, “mine mine mine.”

As the train trundles on and slows down at subsequent stations, others will naturally squeeze on to the locomotive – and it’s more than likely that another Only Child will home in on the priority seat and give the occupant a pissed off stare. It’s often an interesting stand-off – like two spoilt children with a Meccano set at playgroup.

The Only Child’s tactic to retain possession of the seat includes being very busy and important and supposedly unaware of people’s needs around them by composing important emails on their BlackBerry, being preoccupied as they arrogantly flick through the pages of the Financial Times – and pretending to be asleep.

However, it’s inevitable that there are others aside from The Only Child who want to sit in that seat too. Curiously they are the commuters who actually do look like a fat woman, a woman co-joined with another person or a man with a cane auditioning for “Top Hat”. The underdogs of the commuter world, they nervously hover around The Only Child, feeling vulnerable and as if they cannot ask The Only Child to move the fuck out of their seat. In fact, many wear badges to indicate their entitlement – but this silent voice is often not heard.

*drops David Attenborough voice as becomes more wound up and slightly hysterical*

But, my friends, this is a jungle and you have to roar to stand up for yourself. Be careful about the way you do this, though, otherwise you’ll just end up looking like another commuter twat – like the “Train Prefect” who bellows at others to move down the carriage.

Firstly, try and loudly but calmly ask The Only Child if you can sit in their seat. Point at your ailment to make it a bit obvious. Shocked that someone has actually been brave and opened their mouth, they’ll often just move. And if they don’t then they’ve made themselves look like a selfish twat in front of everyone else in the carriage, leaving you to say something like, “No you’re right – your ego needs this seat more.”

If you’re feeling a bit more belligerent, try one of the below:

(for the women with bulging stomachs)

1) *prefixed with a steely glare* “You really don’t want to mess with my hormones.”

2) “I had sex so I could specifically sit in that seat.”

3) And for those who haven’t been careless with their contraception, you could simply give the Only Child a little slap around the chops and tell them that you know they’re not really sleeping / engrossed in their self-important emails.

4) Or there’s the one I enjoyed using so much recently after I broke my wrist: “Would you prefer it if I sat on your lap?” Try and be slightly creepy with that one too, like you’re really enjoying just thinking about the image.

After this even the most abhorrent Only Child will move, albeit with a huff and some remark about how they’re so tired after having spent the whole day ordering people around to work on their extension in Herne Hill.

Yet still some just stay put.


At least you tried; you’ve done everything you rationally can to justify those empowering expletives which are just seconds from tumbling out of your mouth after the red mist slowly closes down…