Dominic Utton is not offended that people try to avoid him

I was told something rather shocking this week. It had nothing to do with train delays, or overcrowding, or ticket price rises.

It didn’t touch upon poor customer service, or angry passengers, or even unpleasant reactions to past-its-best M&S trainwine. No — this time it was personal. I bumped into a friend who started commuting this winter — he’s actually the son of a neighbour who made the daily trip between Oxford and London for 20 years until his recent retirement — and he confessed to me that his father used to deliberately try to avoid catching the same train as me. This man — let’s call him ‘Bob’ — would get into work purposely late (or early) just to make sure there wasn’t a chance of he and I sharing a journey.

Now to some extent I can sympathise.

I’m not exactly a chatty commuter myself — and the enforced intimacy of an overcrowded Coach C at eight in the morning can test even the most neighbourly of friendships.

But still: to actively avoid me, to deliberately inconvenience himself just so as not to say hello in the morning… well, it did seem a touch harsh.

But then his son explained. “My dad was convinced you’re cursed,” he said.

“So many of your trains are delayed, so many overcrowded, that he reckoned there were darker forces at work than simple bad luck. When you get on a train things go wrong. And he didn’t want any of it rubbing off on him. No offence, like.” None taken, ‘Bob’. Sometimes it does feel like I’m cursed.

Some days it really does seem like diabolical forces are conspiring to make sure I get the least value for money possible from my First Great Western season ticket. And so, rather than be offended, it all made me think.

Commuters are a surprisingly superstitious bunch.

For a group of people who spend every morning and evening being ground down by the tediously ordinary problems of the real world, we’ve got an oddly open attitude to the supernatural. I always stand at exactly the same place on the platform of a morning, for example.

(If somebody else is there before me it can throw out my whole day.) I always make for the same place in the same carriage.

It’s not that it’s a particularly good place — but habit and superstition mean I have to have that seat.

I know of commuters who tell themselves that if they can get to such-and-such a point without a hold up then they’ll have good luck for the rest of the day.

I know others who try to ward off delays by always listening to exactly the same playlist on their iPods every journey, or counting pigeons, or always getting their stuff out of their bag in the same order. Every time a magpie flies past you can almost feel the carriage saluting, punching themselves, turning around three times, or whatever other old wives’ tale they were told about warding off bad magpie luck. And yet, despite all this, the trains don’t seem to play ball.

All these rituals and commuter voodoo every day… and we still seem to always arrive late. It’s no wonder ‘Bob’ wouldn’t catch a train with me.

Perhaps I am cursed after all.