THERE are very few scenarios in life when a strange man sticking his armpit in my face is deemed socially acceptable.

Salsa dancing is one of them (never again) and commuting is the other.

Returning to the commuting game after a sabbatical, I'm experiencing it with the fresh eyes of an outsider. I feel like David Attenborough chancing upon a new species of strangely habitual beings. I appear to have forgotten the various skills required to survive rush-hour travel such as the art of maintaining an untroubled, far-away gaze while sharing intimate breathing space with a random person and being able to steady oneself on a moving train using only the balls of one's feet.

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A colourful variety of species can be observed on the morning commute. Most common is sleepy koala (Droolza lotte), a quiet unobtrusive creature who passes the journey in a state of slack-jawed oblivion. This solitary traveller rarely interacts with others save for the odd, unintentional head sway into an adjoining territory.

Another common sighting is the busy bee (Alpha mama). This species is characterised by a steely expression across the eyes caused by having already been up for three hours feeding, preening and transporting offspring, before embarking on travel. While usually immaculate in appearance, keen observers will notice the occasional giveaway sign such as a smear of porridge or snot on the coat which hints at this creature's double life.

Slumped throughout the carriages is the subspecies grumpy bear (Palpa bildisdain). With every passing mile this individual becomes increasingly despondent with thoughts of his unsatisfying work life. In some individuals, this dissatisfaction can develop into a full-blown existential crisis before the destination is reached. Generally, travellers interact without incident, although one who can cause irritation is the lesser spotted industrious beaver (Showofficus tedius) who spends the duration of the journey battering away on a lap-top and rustling sheets of paper with grids and charts in a bid to establish supremacy in the pecking order. Occasionally, he or she will garble jargon into a hands-free phone to further enhance this display of dominance.

Oh yes, and if you are reading this on the red-eye Alloa to Glasgow Queen Street service, I am the one swinging one-armed from the overhead baggage rail while catching up on forty winks in the style of a particularly accomplished orang-utan.