Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pale Shadows

It's always profoundly unsettling running into fellow commuters out of context. A few years ago when I lived in Welwyn Garden City I remember coming face to face with two fellow denizens of the front carriage (this was before I made the momentous decision to switch to the rear) with whom I regularly failed to swap pleasantries on the 7:50 (or whatever) into Kings Cross. They were both middle aged, smartly turned out, Daily Mail readers (so of course we could never be friends), and I used to suspect that they were in in adulterous relationship. Imagine my disappointment, therefore, at encountering them in civvies (jeans, I believe) in WH Smith at the weekend, quite clearly a couple as legitimate as it is possible to be. I flashed a winning smile, as I always do in these situations, and received the cold shoulder in return, which I suppose serves me right for being a hypocrite.

Last weekend it happened again. This time I was in Woolworths in Hitchin, joining the flock of vultures who have descended upon the decaying carcass of the store in the hope of finding some juicy piece of merchandise before it is forever consigned to history, along with the likes of C&A and Allders. I was just walking through the door when a guy who often gets the same train as me, a thirty-something (at a guess) who always managed to look uncomfortable and even somewhat scruffy in a suit and wears a permanent half-smile, passed me going in the opposite direction with his kids! I was momentarily dumbstruck - I never had him down as a having-kids sort of person. Just goes to show, books and covers and all that. Anyway, having recovered my composure in a split second, I raised my eyebrows to him in a non-committal gesture of acknowledgement, fully expecting to be shunned once more. A brief look of blind panic crossed his face as he looked almost, but not quite, straight at me, and then he averted his gaze and was gone. Nice to know it's not just me that finds these encounters discomfiting. But the real highlight was yet to come.

There's a guy who sits in the rear carriage most days, who possesses a remarkable knack of getting to the front of the queue/scrum/mob as the train pulls in, even if he has arrived after everybody else. He's a wee bit older than the besuited guy, and not a suit-wearer (suggested he works in "meeja"), but the intensity that comes into his eyes every morning when the train arrives marks him out as a force to be reckoned with. I had him down as a bit of a loner, someone for whom other people represent a kind of hell. Once again, how wrong I was. He was in the sweetie aisle with positiveily angelic little girl, showing all the signs (which I am by now trained to recognise) of being a doting father. Remarkable.

I've come over quite emotional actually. Maybe I'll try to organise some drinks, next time I see them both. Then we could all be friends. Love-er-ly.


At 9:10 AM GMT , Blogger Rish said...

Hi JD.

It is odd, people can be completely different in work mode compared to home mode. I am not, and have deliberately chosen a line of work where I can show the same levels of charm and frustration whether I am at home or in the office. I wonder what the others in this post think of you - can they imagine you at home cooing over the Little Commuter?

Merry Christmas to you, make it a good one for the little guy!


At 1:25 PM GMT , Blogger JD said...

Thanks Rish. You too. And thanks for keeping me up to date with developments by the Trent - really enjoying the blog. Here's to 2009 and mid-table mediocrity!


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