Endgaming and the Inhuman Commute

Before my partner left home for work at a ridiculously early hour this morning, she said she’d talked to an American man who commuted from Bath to Newbury here in the UK every day, a four hour round trip when the trains are running on time. That day, they weren’t. They shared a taxi because they’d missed the bus to the vast village on the edge of Newbury that is home to a large mobile phone company.

I said it was a journey I wouldn’t want to do every day. The man must have been new to the journey because he was apparently quite cheerful about the situation. He’d been doing it for four weeks. It reminded me how happy I was with my first serious commute, to start with.

I had commuted by train from Reading to Oxford each day for four years. It was stress free. I loved it. Back in 1988, trains equalled real commuting. There was a lot of cache to the train commute. It was something middle class characters like Gerry in The Good Life did. But all that was to change with privatisation of the trains.

When I was made redundant in 1993, the year privatisation started, I became self-employed. My first contract was with Ingres in Kings Road, London. That meant taking a fast, regular, high speed train to London, and then climbing aboard the Circle line tube to South Kensington. For several weeks I wondered what the fuss was about the tube. It worked. I arrived at work every day a good two hours before anyone else, at 8am, and I had one of the longest commutes. Another man commuted from Gloucester, virtually on the other side of the country.

I loved the commute. I remember being asked by a man with a clipboard outside the station about the London tube, and him raising his eyebrows when I said it was faultless. What he didn’t know was that I’d only been doing it for two weeks. Next day, my once smooth running tube train stopped underground after High Street Ken. It remained stopped underground in the tunnel for ten minutes. Fine for one day, but next day it did it again, and there was no explanation. Nobody else said anything. We all just stood there. After a week of sweaty moments standing each morning underground in a crowded tube train in a tunnel for ten minutes I had to reconsider the nature of commuting. It seemed the ten minute stop was suddenly part of the timetable. It was suddenly a second class way of getting to work. Eventually, I could no longer face the claustrophobia and panic each morning. I would get off at High Street Ken. This added a long walk to my commute. Even so, I arrived several hours before anyone else. Having worked my 8 hours plus, I’d leave some time after four. By then, of course, everyone else still had another four hours to go.

In London, there’s no going home early. Most people live in tiny places two hours away on the tube in places like Harrow, Hayes, Ruislip. They meet partners at 7pm, and they eat out before returning to their tiny flats. After a few months, I realised nobody saw me arrive at 8am except the cleaners, and everybody saw me leave at 4:30 with permission from my manager. But that’s not conducive to good relations with the big boss, and that’s how London offices operate. Everyone moves with the big boss. What I’d been doing was rising to a challenge to arrive early, several hours too early, and it was utterly pointless.

Several years later, the concept of Endgaming was described to me in terms of racing to arrive somewhere because there is an imagined prize waiting for you. My aim to arrive at 8am was an overdeveloped desire to please, possible a reaction to being made redundant. Endgaming is discounting the damage caused now for future gain (or imagined future gain). It’s described beautifully in Hypgnosys.

But it’s all very well for therapists to highlight endgaming and advise against it. True, the health dangers are immense, but the competitive nature of British industry is not to be underestimated. People endgame for very good reasons. Highly ambitious people calculate the worth of the commute in terms of their prospects. They conclude there is nothing to be gained by going with the train company flow, or the traffic flow. They know they have to go with the bosses flow. I have seen people who are so highly ambitious that they deliberately assume the bosses commute so they can share the bosses anxiety, and the bosses concerns over coffee. If endgaming is about discounting health for an imagined prize, what is stalking the boss about?

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