No kids today but i’m up early and off to the city for a meeting. This gives me a rare opportunity to ditch the uniform and dress like a proper grown up.
These meetings occur once a quarter and I usually drive, but on this occasion I have opted to take the train, joining the early morning masses. Even after shaving my head, filtering water (in child’s plastic bottle, having discarded my own metal one) i’m out of the door in plenty of time. I even find a parking space at the railway station. I can’t see what the fuss is about so far.
I buy a return ticket. The taxpayer is now £79 worse off. I wonder if the teller had accidently included the previous traveller’s ticket in my price but say nothing.
Walking to my train I pass a sign informing passengers that due to the change of seasons and the potential for leaves on the line, some services may be a few minutes late. George Stephenson and IKB are probably rotating in their graves.
My train arrives and isn’t too packed, so no traingate scandal for me. As I walk down the carriage I find a seat in a cluster of 4, where 3 commuters have set up residence. Oddly, it’s the window seat that is free as commuter 1 has elected for an aisle seat. I break the first rule of commuting; thou shalt not invade personal space. We smile at each other yet I still have to ask to sit down. At £79, you can bet i’m going to sit down; I owe that at least to the taxpayer. He obliges, grudgingly, and moves the several sheets of A4 (and himself) to allow me in.
Now I am not small; in fact i’m quite the opposite. Add a Navy Peacoat and bulging laptop bag and you get somewhere near the picture.
Commuters 2 and 3 stare at me with incredulity. I smile back and continue my descent into my seat. I should have taken my coat off first, but the moment has passed; Commuter 1 has resettled. 2 and 3 have gone back to his mobile device and her window staring respectively.
I’m still all elbows, having to turn my laptop bag on it’s side to take my Kindle out.
Now the bag won’t fit between my legs and the table, and won’t go on the floor. I put it beside/behind me, but this forces me into a kind of ‘I have a secret to tell you’ position with 1.
I look up, and realise that a quarter rise will probably be enough to place this carbuncle in the luggage rack.
Normal service is quickly resumed and 1,2,3 and 4 (me) engross in our collective solipsism. Then it happens – my foot accidentally touches that of 3 under the table. She has skillfully placed her continental sized handbag on the table between us and this has done its job, but she neglected to protect her foot space. There is an audible dual shuffling of feet and we successfully ignore each other. Until it happens again.
Good Lord; in terms of Britishness this is like some mismatched date where well-meaning parents mastermind an attempt to pair their offspring.
She plays with her hair but staring out of the window I take this as extreme discomfort. The book that i’m reading is now the most interesting thing I’ve ever read.
A slow stroll amongst the morning rush gives plenty of opportunity to people watch. This lifestyle has zero appeal but creating backstories for strangers amuses me no end. The sun’s ineffectiveness does nothing to lessen the beauty of the day, even amongst the volumes of traffic. Day 2 of fasting and it feels pretty easy, even when I order my lunch.
Fast food chains insist on American vernacular but I don’t. I ask them if I can ‘have’ a ‘medium’ Chai Latte please. He turns to his colleague and shouts “CAN I GET A MEDIO CHAI LATTE…!”
I sit down in the meeting room alone, with 15 minutes to spare and as I check the agenda, I see that the meeting starts at 11, not 10.