There’s a time and a place to watch TV – and it’s not on the train

Why should people be faced by a zombie-killing splash-fest on their commute? asks Alison Graham

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The other day I had a dreadful journey home on the train. Right in front of me a heavily armed women wielded a machete and burrowed it into another woman’s skull. This was accompanied by spurting blood and terrible screams. No one in the carriage said anything, of course, and I certainly wasn’t going to cause any trouble so I kept reading my book.

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Or I tried to read my book, which was difficult, what with the bloody mayhem going on just beside me. Nobody really died, of course, but I was the victim of a crime – I was being held hostage by someone else’s taste, someone who was watching The Walking Dead on their tablet right there in public.

Yes, I know it’s a free country and I know people watch TV on their tablets and mobiles – I am part of the 21st century (hooray). But really, just as I have had to become used to other people’s insistence on bombarding me with tinny music leaking from their headphones, I now have to put up with gore-splatter before I’ve even had dinner.

I’m sure you’ll be asking, “Why didn’t you move seats or turn away?” But this was a crowded commuter train (commuter trains are always crowded), there were no spare seats, I had two heavy bags set before me and I was quite comfy. And if I’d turned away I’d have been staring pointedly at the stranger on my right, which would have been weird and possibly dangerous. (Never make eye contact on a train, NEVER – it’s the first rule of travel.)

Besides, my Walking Dead companion was holding the device at arm’s length so it was just THERE, in my vision. Anyway, why should I be discomforted by someone else’s thoughtlessness? But mobile TV-watching is with us and will doubtless spread like the spores of a disease. In which case we need ground rules before everyone who prefers a bit of quiet self-containment in public on the onslaught of someone else’s idea of entertainment goes barmy.

First, please remember, watchers-of-TV-in-public, that you are part of the human race, that there are people surrounding you in public places and on public transport who might not want to be helplessly faced by a zombie-killing splash-fest at 7.30pm. 

You might be sealed into your own little world, you might have shut everyone out, thinking that the very act of putting a pair of teeny-tiny headphones into your ears somehow makes you disappear. But – guess what – we can see you and the exploding on-screen skulls. Often, because the notion of volume control seems to be as alien to you as the rings of Saturn, we can actually hear every slash and scream, which, sieved through your headphones, sound piercingly tinny.

Last of all, it’s just bad manners (perhaps you should ask your grandparents about this as your parents obviously never taught you about considering the thoughts and feelings of other people). I have been silent in the past as someone has eaten a full Chinese meal from cartons in the seat opposite. I remained mute as a woman plucked her eyebrows just beside me. I have, in sort, put up with a lot from other people who aren’t as well brought up as I was. 

But maybe forced public TV-watching is just one great big Orwellian twist on the death of politeness in a selfish society and maybe I’m just a tiny bit sick of it.

So next time anyone watches The Walking Dead in my eyeline on the 7.25 I’m going to go bonkers. But politely and quietly of course. 


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