Miracle on the 5.15

18 01 2007

After listening all day to the wind scream past our fifth floor window, and after seeing the police cordon off the streets around us to protect cars from flying building bits, I thought it would be a good idea to check my train company website to see if the trains were running ok.  Turns out, not so much.  Every train scheduled for the day had been cancelled with no news about whether any trains were running.  I started getting that horrid panicky feeling I get when I think I have to stay up in London and not come home – I really can’t explain it.  My colleagues seemed unfazed by the notion that without my trains, I am stranded 80 miles from where I live – my home, my things, my clean clothes, my toothbrush.  I had several offers to stay with people at work, which I really appreciate, but if I don’t come home and get chance to unwind and purge myself of work and London, something just doesn’t feel right.  So at 4.35pm I had enough – I left to chance my luck at Marylebone Station.

As I approached the tube turnstile at Bank, my heart plopped when I saw that the two lines I use showed ‘severe delays’.  But it turned out that these delays were non-existent.  I got to Marylebone in damn good time.  By 5.10, I emerged from the tube station, into the main concourse and scanned the board for my stop.  Bingo!  Train at Platform 1 leaves at 5.30.  This is where my luck started to falter.  I got on the train.  Just.  There are people rammed into every space on the train – not unusual in the tube but certainly not expected on my train which is a fairly long distance service.  I get disapproving looks for deigning to occupy space which would otherwise be taken up by newspapers being read.  Still, I pay over£4500 a year to travel on this line – I think I deserve to be there more than the Evening Standard.

The train actually left at 5.15, so I am glad I actually got on straight away (I had contemplated buying a magazine for the journey – how foolish!).   The guy behind me is persevering with his magazine.  There is just no way he cannot tell he is knocking it against my head every minute or so.  In case he isn’t sure, I passive-aggressively huff (loudly) then smooth my hair down, which knocks his magazine in the process.  Ha! That’ll learn ‘im.  Except it doesn’t.  The carriage is so crowded, I cannot lose my cool.  I cannot even politely ask him to stop because this is on a train in Britain and we just don’t DO that.  Especially if I was rude enough to crash the party.

The wanker finally got the message (well, I did mutter ‘for fuck’s sake’ in a pained and desperate way under my breath – he was bound to react) and he found a way to read his magazine without making me want to rip off his balls.  After an hour standing with practically no space, not enough to even remove my lovely warm wool coat that I detested right at that second,  we pulled into the first stop.  We made way for the lucky ones who get to escape the cargo hold.  I am standing in the vestibule area of the train and there are about 7 men standing in the aisle along.  A seat is vacated.  I don’t even see the seat, it’s that far away.  And as a seasoned commuter – my spare-seat radar is pretty faultless.

And then a miracle happened.  I am asked if I want the seat.  Somehow, I managed to get in the carriage with seven goddamn angels.  That’s the only explanation.  Because there is no reason on this earth that I can think of that would explain why a hot, tired man would willingly give up the chance to sit when the nearest woman is seven people away.  Thinking about it now, perhaps there is just one angel, who suggested they ask me.  And the other men were too ashamed to say, “screw her, I’m sitting down”.  I like the first version better.

I started to ask if they really didn’t want to sit and one of the angels whispered “don’t ask, just sit!”.  Wise words, indeed.  I thanked each one – I think I may have said the words “I could love every one of you”, such was my gratitude (and I am a bit glad that none of the tried to take me up on that) and I sat my fat, hot ass down, laptop bag, heavy wool coat and all, with a sheepish face and a warm, glowy heart.  God bless the seven commuter angels of the 5.15.

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