Public Transport for the Claustrophobic: A Spaced-Out Self Help Guide

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Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has an irrational fear of having no escape or being closed-in. This book starts by assuring you that this can be a very rational fear when it comes to public transport in India. But you just have to follow the smart guidelines in this book to ensure a smooth and hassle free journey to your destination even in rush hours.

 It will all become clear to you when I explain the fundamental science that lies behind smart public travel. These insights are usually to be gained right in school. The favourite way for high school teachers to explain atomic arrangement in crystalline solids was by giving the example of how the students are seated in regular rows and columns in the classroom. But, like a wise man once said, real education beings after school, or in this case, after school hours.

 Notice how the regular crystalline arrangement breaks up and forms an amorphous mass with high viscosity and diffuses out of the classroom in a seemingly random fashion. A bunch of atoms have random motion. But, the application of electric of magnetic fields can channel their motion in a specific direction. Similarly, a bunch of people can also be manipulated to behave in a semi or pseudo random fashion by the careful application of fields. Note that the fields may be any one or a combination of coercive, enticing, physical, emotional, rational or religious. It ultimately boils down to a branch of study called applied mass psychology.

The physics of applied mass psychology uses levers. Levers can reduce the effort required to move an object. And, you will be resting your level of mass psychology on the fulcrum of repulsion.

All you need to do is to carry your phone with you. Pretend to be talking on the phone. Discuss a few symptoms that you have been experiencing for the past few days. Include stuff like difficulty in breathing, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, whatever catches your fancy. Add some MRI, X-ray and CT scans. You will begin to notice people giving you glances of sympathy. When you have attracted sufficient attention, declare in a confident tone that it is non-contagious. Pause for around 10 seconds. Then say softly “Oh is it? I did not know that”. Then slowly start glancing around at the people gathered near you. You can mirror their sympathetic expression for added effect.

The above strategy may not work in extra crowded trains where reaching your own pocket may be difficult. After a reader wrote back about how in an attempt to reach his phone, he put his hands into a fellow passenger’s pocket, a revised edition of this book was released which includes an additional strategy that can be used in crowded trains.

Pretend to be chewing tobacco. Don’t worry if you are tobacco intolerant. Just puff your cheeks slightly and pretend to be chewing. Red marks might be added around the lips for stubborn crowds. When you being to feel claustrophobic and want some reprieve, stop chewing and slowly start looking around you, eyes slightly angled downwards towards the floor. Works best in the presence of women and well-dressed office going crowd.

Inspite of all measures, stubborn crowds can be hard to handle. But, don’t be confrontational. Claustrophobia gets worse as the distance between their fist and your face reduces. Avoid physical contact. Use dialogue and reason. Try skipping brushing your teeth for one day if your words are not enough.

In case of extreme emergencies, where none of the above works, remember that there is always one seat that you will never be added to share: the toilet seat. Make your way there when things get out of hand.

Wish you happy commuting!

Post Script

The above piece was written as part of a session in Write Club hosted by Kalansh. The exercise required the piece to be written in second person. The prompt was a visual prompt in the form of the photograph given below. (Photo credits: Trisha Salvi)

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