Friday, January 08, 2010

Confrontation!

More on my Noughties commuting retrospective next time, but today I just have to record my experience aboard an over-crowded, sluggish rush-hour train this morning. It's day three of the big freeze, of course (no, seriously - day three - it only started on Wednesday: we are not living in some kind of Narnian state of perpetual Winter as the media would have you believe). I have been lucky. My train route has been relatively robust. We haven't been that badly hit by the snow (yet) - only three or four inches I would say. It may be a factor that the route to the Beautiful Market Town where I live happens to share a track with the main line up to Scotland, via Peterborough and Leeds, so perchance we get more TLC than some of the other suburban commuter routes. Whatever the reason, the service has not been severely disrupted so far, beyond a few delays and a bit of congestion. Today there was an emergency timetable in operation, and when I reached the platform it was already fairly full. When our service pulled in, we duly piled forth, and I was lucky enough to cadge a spot by the partition in the vestibule, on which I could lean to my heart's content. Not so fortunate was a chap who jumped on just as the doors were closing, a familiar face whom I have observed before as one of those commuters that always jumps the queue in order to find a seat. On this occasion he had no chance, and to be fair to him he took it very well. His only reaction was to put his cycling helmet back on - I wondered whether he knew something we didn't.

It got exciting when we got to Stevenage. A couple more people got on - a lady and a gentleman of mature years. Apparently they were unacquainted, but the gentleman took it upon himself to be the knight in shining armour, announcing to the first class section "I'm sure one of these kind gentlemen will be good enough to give the lady a seat." Fair comment, even if it was delivered in a rather pompous manner. Sure enough, one of the kind gentlemen did give up his seat, protesting loudly, and quite aggressively (one might even say defensively) that he hadn't seen her. This may have been because he had suddenly, on pulling into the station, developed an intense interest in his naval, such that he was unable to wrest his attention from it to peruse the new arrivals lest any of them should be a damsel in need of a seat. Still, I wasn't going to pursue the point, lest verbal aggression spill over into physical violence. The gentleman of mature years contented himself with a knowing, weary shake of the head - a gesture I find irritating in the extreme - and proceeded to thrust his backpack directly into the face of the hitherto uninvolved commuter standing behind him.

The guy was now talking up the space of two people, in a carriage with no spare elbow room. "Ho hum," thought I to myself, "that's just a little bit hypocritical. If I was that guy standing behind him, I'd jolly well tell him to put that bag down and stop throwing rocks from his glass house. Or something like that." Of course, I didn't say anything, being something a hypocrite myself. But then the gentleman of mature years decided to shift position, so that the ruck sack was shoved in my face instead, leaving me with no option but to speak up. "Excuse me," quoth I , very polite like, "would you mind putting your bag down. I'll hold your coffee." Nice touch that, I thought - taking the heat out of the situation by being conciliatory, rather than saying what I really meant, which was "Put the bag down and show some consideration for other people, you pompous old prick."

Now it was his turn to get defensive. "No thanks" was his terse response to my offer, although he did, with great ceremony, shrug the rucks sack from his shoulders and on to the floor, before giving me the cold shoulder. We were all of us making lots of friends today - fortunately the train didn't get stuck anywhere, or a fight might have broken out.

2 Comments:

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