Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Let us be silent

Since I tend to take trains at a restricted set of times into London every day, I've managed to make a couple of train friends - but only on the morning trains. In the evenings, there's too much of a scramble to manage to see the same people every time. The National Rail staff at Kings Cross like to exacerbate this situation by announcing the platforms no more than six or seven minutes before the train is due to depart. Now, I don't know if any of you have ever tried to get from the main Kings Cross station to the end of a 12-carriage train on one of the platforms, but I can assure you that only by walking on the verge of a run can you get there in under four minutes. This means that the moment they announce the platform heralds a stampede. I can't imagine what it must be like for anyone who is elderly, physically disabled or even just carrying a heavy bag.

Recently, however, I noticed I was seeing a couple of familiar faces on my evening train. I smile at them, but I'm too tired to make conversation and frankly, I wouldn't want to try. No one wants to have their exhausted naps interrupted. I tend to seek out the end carriage (because it's the first one to pull into Cambridge station). A man in that carriage always sits in the same seat - I have no idea how he manages that; I assume he runs down the platform - and I often sit next to him when the seat is free. I like it because he's quite slim, he looks at his smartphone until we leave the station and then he buttons himself into his coat and goes to sleep. This leaves me free to read or sleep myself, and I'm comfortable in the seat because I'm not being squashed by a gigantic man. I assume he likes it for the same reason - I'm quiet and small and I don't disturb him until I have to leave at Cambridge.

Last week I raced onto the train, having been held up by the Piccadilly line, which was being regulated to even out the gaps in the service. I jumped on the end carriage 45 seconds before departure, not expecting to see any empty seats. I lunged toward the first one I saw, gasping at the man in the aisle seat, "Excuse me, do you mind if I sit there?" He smiled and stood up so I could squeeze myself in. As I fished through my bag in search of my Kindle, I felt eyes on me. I turned my head and caught the eye of the man I would opt to sit next to if I'd seen him. The seat next to him was also empty.

He looked wounded.

The next evening I made a point of getting there early so I could sit next to him. He smiled extra-brightly as he stood up to let me in by the window, and settled happily back for his nap.
Tags: anecdote, commuting, expatriate

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