Musings and wanderings in the Daemon Wastes...

Tag: Commuting

Why Tuesdays are often memorable…

Yesterday was a Tuesday, and although my assertion that Tuesday is the “crazy day” can only be supported by anecdotal evidence at best, yesterday is an excellent example of the sheer oddness that Tuesdays do often seem to subject me to…

I had a “normal” day at work, even a normal (and utterly lovely) dinner with a good friend (Hello Mel!), but it was the commute home that brought out all the crazy I could ever hope for…

We had finished eating by 2145h (ish) and as I waved Mel off at Southwark Tube I thought to myself that I really ought to nip back to the office and grab my bike if the building was open, and in fact that I really ought to cycle back to Paddington, despite the late hour. So far so good. I should have suspected something when my ride was favoured with green lights at every junction and even a couple of considerate bus drivers, one in particular showed me such courtesy that I could scarce believe it. As I turned into Norfolk Place and slowed expecting the “Bendy Bus” behind me to overtake me and then cut me up moments later, I realised that he was waiting for me to pick up speed and “go first”; giving me the same consideration he might a car or motorcycle – surely this man was new to driving a bus in central London 😉

I arrived at Paddington in quite a good mood and that mood soared as I realised that I had a leisurely ten minutes to saunter onto the Swansea train and that I would be home before 2330h. Oh the hubris of such optimism… As I folded up my bike and climbed onto the first standard class carriage I should have been wary of the impending horror that awaited me, but I was still pleasantly buoyed up by the lovely evening and the lovely ride.

The wheels started to come off right away. There was a young woman blocking the entrance to the carriage, attempting rather half-heartedly to lift a suitcase that could have easily accommodated my not inconsiderable form, if not her own as well, from a perfectly safe and innocuous position at the base of the luggage rack to the very top shelf. It was __clear__ that she was not going to be able to lift it, and it was fine where it was, so I politely and kindly suggested to her that she leave it there and I’d put my bike “up top” to save her the trouble. Oh my, if looks could kill… I swear I was nice, friendly and not even remotely patronising, but she was not impressed;

“But I want to get it out of the way; it needs to be out of the way!”

I smiled, counted to five and replied;

“Erm, it __is__ out of the way, and if you manage to lift it up above your head and put it on the top there, I’m just going to put my bike where it was, which is a totally acceptable place to put it as it is quite out of the way, so you see you needn’t bother at all. Why struggle?”

More scowling, and now a look that seemed to read ‘My God you’re a pervert, you just want to lull me into a false sense of security and then…’ (I’m not kidding, she really did look at me like that – for the record I was wearing basketball shorts, high-vis gear and a bike helmet; not the most intimidating or powerful I have ever looked either)

“But I need to get it up on the top of here. Look it’s in the way”,

she said, indicating how the suitcase in no way impeded the passage of any normal sized horse, let alone human being.

By this time my arms were starting to hurt and shake and tremble from holding my folded bike out at almost arms’ length, ready to heave it up onto the top shelf of the luggage rack and I was starting to get annoyed.

“Look I don’t care which way round, but my bike either needs to go up there, or where your bag is; you decide.”

Bewildered and now apparently even more frightened of me, even though I was really making an effort to be non-threatening and pleasant the girl backs away and starts loudly telling her two friends what a dick I am.

I decide to simply get on with things, place my bike on the rack, ignore her off the cuff character assassination and get on with my life. So far this is a minor thing, my pleasant evening has not yet been meaningfully marred and I find a seat.

Things settle down, the train leaves and then the Train Manager appears… Now I __am__ a big fellah; I’ll be the first to admit that I could stand to lose a couple more stone, let alone “a few pounds” and I am rarely comfortable with commenting on other people’s size, but this guy was FAT. I could hear him struggling to breathe and the sounds of his clothes dragging on the seats behind me over the sounds of my iPod as he approached and wheezed out “All tickets and passes, please!”. Why should this bother me you ask? Well it would not have done if the following had not happened… The Manager stopped next to my seat, inspected the ticket of a gent opposite me and then proceeded to treat said “customer” as though he were something that he had found, unwelcome, on the bottom of his shoe. The Customer may well always be right, but not on First Great Western apparently. Despite the fact that the gent in question had a ticket, and despite the fact that he maintained that he had been told he could travel on it, but because it was a Gatwick to Swansea ticket that was supposed to be used via Reading, not London, this repellent Train Manager proceeded to talk over and insult this genuinely polite and contrite passenger who just wanted to do whatever was necessary to be “on the level”. Even though I know that (at least until recently) it would have been well within his discretion to allow this poor chap to use his railcard despite being forced to make an on-train purchase he insisted on beating this guy down verbally and going on and on about how his railcard was irrelevant once already aboard a train, for some time after the guy had said that he would pay the full fare! All of this would have done little more than cause minor annoyance if the Train Manager had not managed to elbow me in the face twice as he tried to take this guy’s money (once after me protesting about the first elbowing) simply because he was too damn FAT to stand and operate in the aisle! I pointed out to him, politely and calmly that I didn’t appreciate being elbowed in the face and he looked at me with nothing less than contempt and rather spat out a desultory “sorry” that could not have been less sincere if he’d tried.

I was now fuming.

He checked my ticket and buggered off.

I decided to calm down, it wasn’t worth getting upset about, he was just an arrogant, fat old git and not worth my annoyance.

When I sit in the aisle seat, and I have my bicycle with me on the train, I often hang my helmet on the corner of the seat in front – there is a “hand-hold” that makes it a pretty secure place to put it, and I have never received any complaint from fellow passengers or FGW staff about it, so I continue to do it.

About ten minutes after the elbowing, fattie comes barreling back down the carriage towards us – still unable to properly fit between the seats – and catapults my helmet into my face.

I’ll admit I was a little shocked and I did indeed exclaim, quite angrily;

“Jesus Wept!”

What I hear from behind me as I do this is a pointed retort from the Train Manager;

“I beg your pardon?”

I looked around to face him, and simply replied;

“I said ‘Jesus Wept!’ because you just knocked my helmet off there into my face.”

Bold as brass – and remember that this guy is essentially at the sharp end of customer service;

“Stupid place to put it, and I don’t appreciate that kind of language.”

Before he turned on his heel and waddled down into First Class leaving me speechless…

My evening was now suffering quite badly from the Tuesday Crazy.

Another ten minutes went by and I decided to get up out of my seat in advance of arriving in Reading, in order to not inconvenience any of my fellow travelers as I donned my high-vis gear and retrieved my bike form the luggage rack. I was just doing up final zips and buckles when a voice, right by my ear said;

“You look bloody ridiculous! You’re a brave one if you’re gonna go into Swansea dressed like that, you pillock!”

Now I am not often stuck for something to say, but as I looked into the floating eyeballs (floating in booze) of the crazy, curly haired piss artist that was 4 inches away from my face I found myself utterly speechless. He wobbled for a moment, in the way that practiced drunkards do, not really in any danger of falling, but making me feel a tiny bit seasick to watch him. He mumbled a refrain of “fucking idiot” and then wobbled back to the buffet ‘bar’.

I looked around at my fellow passengers. Those that were not pretending to be oblivious met my bewildered gaze with bewilderment of their own; none of us had __any__ words. I pulled my riding gloves on and went to retrieve my bike and then to stand in the vestibule by the carriage door, to await our impending arrival at Reading.

“Seriously, man, you look like a complete twat. What were you thinking? I mean I applaud your bravery dressing like that in Swansea, but you’re off your head” (You are going to have to imagine the slurring and ‘drunk talk’ I’m not completely sure how to write it).

This time I managed to make words come out; I fixed his gaze – as best I could with the low-level wobbling – and replied;

“Can you not see the bike and the helmet? I’m not dressed like this for fashion reasons, it’s because I’m about to ride a bike in the dark and I want to be seen by motorists. Also I’m getting off in a minute, at Reading, not Swansea, ok?”

He thought about this for a moment; I swear I could hear the gears grinding, not simply turning.

“Oh, you alright mate? Biking it are you? Reading? Are we not at Swansea yet?”

I looked plaintively at the FGW staff member running the buffet, who quickly looked away like a Wild West Saloon bartender who doesn’t want any trouble, and I realised I was getting no help there…

I decided to simply ignore this mad, alcoholic Weebl and “rise above it”, after all he wasn’t being violent (yet), and he was so drunk that he clearly had no idea what he was doing, saying or even where he was. The high moral ground is hard to get back after you’ve stooped to such a man’s level, so I decided to rest on the high ground.

He went away, and started berating the Buffet guy – Karma in action if I ever saw it.

Unseen by me, during these little exchanges was a lady in her late forties or perhaps early fifties, who after drunken weirdo had left me be came over and asked me, with a twinkle in her eye;

“Would you like me to kill ‘im?”

I retained my dignified position and smiled and then replied;

“That’s a very sweet offer, but the paperwork and so forth… He’s really not worth the effort.”

She smiled back, offered me a quiet high-five and I decided to reciprocate; again the foolishness of optimism about human beings… Instead of high-fiving me, she locked her fingers into mine, looked deep into my eyes and said;

“You don’t see that kind of dignity any more, and yet it is the best way.”

I’m not good at “reading signs” from the opposite sex, but I was being hit on – with a BIG bat…

Now, I’m single, I find a wide array of types, ages and so forth to be attractive amongst women, but this was not (even in my deeply frustrated state – 37 months and counting!!) what I was looking for. She was a little bit too much older than me for my taste, a little bit too drunk, I was starting to realise, and as she came closer I noted with some horror that she did not smell all that great either and while I had been cycling to get in the state that I was in, she had apparently been at a bar with an old school friend… *boggle*

Oh the horror.

She followed me off the train a few moments later, insisted on “escorting me out” of the station as she put it, and all the while I am smiling and trying not to run – after all I didn’t want to be mean to her, she was just as lonely as me – clearly – and just drunk enough to hit on a stranger a good fifteen years younger than her, but she was a lot less unpleasant to be around than Weebl had been…

At the entrance to the Station it was only by dint of me mounting my bike that I dodged a very drunk attempt on her part to throw her arms around me, and while I felt a tiny pang of guilt as I sped away into the night I was mostly relieved to be on my own, and likely to be free of the Tuesday Crazy once more – particularly as there were only thirty-five minutes of Tuesday left.

Grey Monday…

Only people who commute to work via public transport can truly understand how completely depressing it is to wake up to grey skies and rain on a Monday morning. Why, you ask?Surely car drivers and pedestrians have as much to be depressed about; no one likes the rain. Well, here’s the thing; there is a particular smell and atmosphere when
fate groups damp people into enclosed spaces, and while commuting is pretty horrid when it’s really hot, nothing is quite up to the horror of a damp Monday morning.


Things that you never thought you’d hear…

This morning my train into Paddington was quite badly delayed; this is not unusual…

Anyway, just outside the station as we were waiting for the platform clearance the train manager came onto the tannoy to apologise, which he did and then during his patter he said:

“…I’m afraid to say that the only good news I can give you is that on the 1706h and 1806h you can now use cheap day returns and off-peak travelcards, which is a measure that came in yesterday…”

and the thing I never thought I’d hear was the carriage breaking out into spontaneous laughter; irate commuters and day trippers just seeing the funny side together. It was remarkably nice.

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