Unqualified expectation of a relaxing journey, engulfed in book and flying scenery.
I get on my false pretence of a booked coach, bundle through the heaving crowd, find my false pretence of a booked seat.
Seat taken by large old bloke, whom it would be rude of me to ask to move – and rather cumbersome for everyone else. So I make my way to the carriage joint and position myself in an awkward comfortable standing position.
I look through an art teacher’s wet dream of perspective example into first class, as does the other bloke who stands rigidly in starched suit. We abstractly create standing class, which we believe we should get a discount for. The seats should be clad in gold for the price we’ve paid not to sit in them! Amused smirk bloke joins our joint and eats his chips in his iPod world. Standing starch gets more and more agitated, checking the carriage for seats every 4.2 minutes, and then checking if the scenery is still passing by, then repeating his ritual in my awkward, now uncomfortable presence. A timid conductor hurries through the whooshy door and doesn’t bother to ask for our tickets, already verbally berated in coach B probably and realising fully that we deserve better, but he is a mere employee, enchained by bureaucracy.
The first stop approaches as I un-pin my foot from its numb needle ready to pounce on the first available seat. Standing starch gets excited and exclaims joy at the amount of people departing and the many bum resting spaces soon to be made available. He lets me go first, which is nice, and I find a seat next to the luggage. Musty Murray Mints engulfs my nose hairs, along with the breath of last night’s vodka, with her Sony Walkman phone and imitation plastic bag. The ‘innit’ girl asks ‘can I sit there?’ I refrain from consulting her as to whether she has a problem with her knee or hip joints that may prevent her from carrying out her wish, and I affirm her poor, held up with cheap scaffolding and bubblegum, question with ‘yes, of course’.
I am absorbed by my book, enclosed by hair. Innit girl gets on her phone; probably feels alone, but not for long. ‘About 15 minutes, innit’, she says, twice, then once more to her ‘innit’ companion from the same school of Like, Innit dot Com (LOL).
A dog whimpers in the carriage joint; we’re all able to empathise as he expresses the emotional and physical pain we’re all feeling, like the folded up bike in the luggage rack.
I need the loo, but I’ll definitely wait.
I like the way you can watch people through the reflection in the window.
I decide to call myself a nutritionist; apparently anyone can. Anyone does, it would seem. I think councils waste money on the latest fads in ‘health care’, or ‘alternative care’, and should concentrate on communication skills in schools.
It’s time to change as we all pile out of the metal tube – design inspired by the gas chamber at Auschwitz. The train oozes its people flatulence out onto the platform and up the stairs. We walk for miles to find the screen with the appropriate information, only to have to go back to where we nearly came from. I hear ‘excuse me, madam’ – a very outdated label for a female – ‘you’ve come in through the exit. This is the exit. The entrance is there’, as he points to the space on the other side of the 4×4 wooden pole that marks the not very well made point at which exit ends and entrance begins. How dare I, I think, as I flash my ticket, say sorry, and continue through the exit to enter the landing strip of abused commuters trying to find hope of their destination through the maze of platform numbers, WH Smith’s, and pigeons.
Awaiting the train on dark, resounding, underground platform of 4B I don’t know which way to look expectantly. Neither does anyone else. So we all look expectantly both ways, avoiding eye contact but trying to catch if someone knows something we don’t as the mass of heads waggle from side to side like we’re at Wimbledon after dark. But the smiling metal tube arrives, from the right, and we ingress and are spoilt for choice as far as bum cushioning.
The safety announcement cackles at us to please notice the many ways in which you may die in the next 30 minutes and the ways in which you may further exasperate your panic by pressing various buttons that probably don’t work. I note all the unattended luggage, some bigger than the train door; a mystery in itself.
The trolley makes its way down the slender isle pulling a neatly turned out woman behind it, every hair straight as a Conservative party leader. Would you like to be ripped off further from the trolley, she exclaims with pride. I dramatically ignore her.
The musical sound of muffled live and tinned voices, the rhythmic wheels beneath against the dead metal tracks mingles together like milk and sherry. The quickness of change of scenery from extensive fields of creative green and munching cattle to the dereliction of disused buildings with untold and forgotten history covered in dirt and buddleia plants, where the death of human ingenuity gives birth to a more natural, plodding paced life with a whole different set of worries and deadly stressful strife.
Visual tastes of undiscovered territory passes by; some that intrigue, some that repulse; some that make me want to pull the big red handle to stop the train now so I may explore, some that make me want to contact the driver via the little red button to tell him to hurry through this irascible landscape.
The boiled sweets crunch and the over-flavoured crisps are munched. The boys sit there with their Stella, scratching their bits, talking tits, void of wit.
An exclusive crossroads of organic (mostly) human life contained in a manufactured (with blu-tack) metal tube for a relative second in the time of their lives. A shared experience we create together that’s relatively inconsequential and briefly noted as ‘train journey’ going to or from somewhere, to new opportunities, away from past lives. Significantly insignificant.
The winter sun occasionally blinding through the fast paced landscape makes me wish I’d sat on the other side.
I feel relief as the door pishes open like air-locked Tupperware and I am released intact. I watch as they leave while I arrive. I don’t wave.