IT’S TRAINING MEN
Having been freelance most of my working life (well, to be honest, that should read “Having been more free than lancing most of my non-working life…”) I had occasion last week to get out of bed several days in a row at some ungodly hour (tell me again what time God rises?) and travel on public transport in what is laughingly known as ‘rush hour’. Why laughingly? Because at the very time literally millions of people are endeavouring to get to work, the trains go the slowest they go all day, sometimes not going at all, even slightly. Which can hardly be called going, now can it? Tsk, the inadequacies of the English language, and there’s not even any Americans in sight.
Anyway, moving on (which is plainly more than morning rush hour trains can manage), this was far from a pleasant experience. Really nice to have the work and all that, but starting the day standing nose to armpit (I’m a really good height for a freelance, take it from me) is not my idea of heaven. One morning I arrived on the platform of my local station to find six times the usual amount of people waiting; there was not only a broken down train somewhere miles away (think it was Sydney, Australia), but there was signal failure at Waterloo, which is the final stop at the end of a route of stops and unscheduled stopping, meaning half the platforms (out of around 20 of them) were not in use. Thus there was a queue to get into the station, causing what is usually an 18′ journey to last an hour. (Funny how you get to miss a particular armpit after a while. Ah well, I have the memories).
Personally, I think the fares didn’t go up half as much as they should have done last week, for what’s the point of taking obscene amounts of money off people when it plainly isn’t enough? I did consider organising some sort of whip round in the carriage I was standing in, but my voice would have emanated from the armpit in the corner, and been just as unintelligible as the clearest muffled information announcement British Rail can muster.
“THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR ALL PASSENGERS TRAVELLING TODAY: Smcherisd hedjsnd bsiexyed musdsdiundc gsdcesyud ehsisii WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. chjsbds pppsxsxns mifflebosn REROUTED dfins ieduesdoi wywyywywyw ALIGHT AT THE NEXT STOP. sebbesdesud susdofupgfpfpg HALF PAST FOUR. vyvyvyvsdsdf musususushfdfsf OR YOUR TICKET WILL NOT BE VALID. THANK YEW”.
Anyway, the following day the service was nearly back to normal, i.e. dreadful, so it’s not all doom and gloom. My train was pulling onto the platform just as I was positioning myself where I knew the doors would be (funny how they always arrive with the train, isn’t it? Is that down to some weird mathematical formula?), and waited for people to get off before climbing on board. First into the carriage was a young woman, and then a young man. I was next. There was an alcove of six seats, two rows of three facing each other, in which there was one woman sitting, along with four men, with one seat vacant. The young woman in front of me was gazing intently at her phone, and walked past the alcove, obviously content to stand. The young man behind her dithered a bit; stood in front of the free seat, looked at the young woman, eventually asking her if she’d like to sit down. She didn’t return his gaze, shook her head curtly, and continued to stare at her phone. The young man knew I was there (perhaps my panting and drooling gave it away), but he steadfastly concentrated on ignoring me. Finally he sat down, took off his ugly knitted tea cosy hat, and rested his eyes.
By now, a few days into this commuting lark, I was a little non-plussed. In fact, I was so non-plussed, I was decidedly minused. I looked at the men around me enjoying the seats – well, I say men, but the average age appeared to be 18, most of them requiring these seats to perform the crucial task of playing Candy Crush Saga. I fumed. I steamed. I knew I had to say something.
So just when the train was pulling into Waterloo I looked at the young man and said: “Excuse me. Perhaps next time you’ll consider offering the seat to a woman a couple of decades older than yourself”. Sniggering ensued from all the men sitting down.
“I’m afraid I don’t see what’s funny,” I added. “He offered the seat to this young woman”. And I waved in the direction of the young woman he’d offered the seat to.
The young man spoke. “What?” he countered. “My wife?”
The sniggering suddenly stopped. Even the youngest of the young men was incredulous.
“You mean, you’re sitting down rather than your wife?!” I managed to splutter, whilst affecting a wide-eyed bunny look. (You never know when multi-tasking’s going to come in handy).
It suddenly occurred to the young man what he’d admitted, and how this made him look. I gave him the death stare until it was my time to clamber down from the six feet height above the platform they now make the carriages, and resolved next time to tell him what a dick he looked in his horrible hat. That’s if he lived, after the effigy I made of him when I got to work did its stuff.
THIS IS A PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT: The train now standing on platforms 6, 7, 8 & 9 has come in sideways. Thank yew.