Fire at the end of the tunnel

This morning’s train journey into work has been a cavalcade of events.

The first annoyance was some tracksuited rudeboy who looked a lot like Akon boarded the train and sat there with headphones on talking into his phone like it was a walkie talkie.

I hate when people do that (see https://headinablender.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/hello-is-anyone-actually-there/)

His voice was a combination of Jamaica and African with a hint of stoner and a large splash of penis. He spoke incredibly loudly and nobody seemed to want to sit near him for some reason.

As the train decided to crawl at fuck all miles per hour, constantly being stopped at red signals and awaiting platforms at various stations, the monotony of the journey was broken by two guards who were checking tickets in tandem.  At first I thought they were doing half a carriage each to save time, but no…we had to provide evidence we’d paid for this embarrassment of public transport a second time.

What I did revel in slightly was the fact that Akon didn’t have a valid ticket. I think he was hoping that the guard, being a black guy, would somehow cut him some slack as a fellow ‘brother’. I’m not being racist; he leaned towards the guard and said “come on brother”.  That was my first clue.

It wasn’t working.

This was evident the second time the guard pointed out that his train pass was in fact a staff pass for London transport and not vaild on trains outside London. Akon feigned ignorance saying he didn’t know and that no one at his company told him.  He was fooling no one and got charged his penalty fare.

It was at this point I decided to have a snooze. After all, the speed this train was going I had at least 6 hours until we reached London.

The train started to get busier and busier. Every time I opened my eyes I was was surrounded by more and more people, all of whom were coveting my seat like a hyena to a feasting pride of lions.

At one point I was woken by a guy loudly offering his seat to a pregnant woman.  The tone of his voice suggested he was pissed off no one else had done it.  The reason I sensed this was because he said “it’s ok fellahs, I’ll make sure she gets a seat”.  I’m sure the woman didn’t feel guilty at all after that.

Soon enough we stopped about 3 stations outside London. The guard’s voice blared over the tannoy in his best broken English to announce that although we had stopped in a station they were not opening the doors as it wasn’t a scheduled stop.  This was despite the fact that the train was crammed solid and there were people collecting outside the doors like children around an ice cream van.

We sat there. We sat there some more. We sat there a bit longer and other passengers I noticed were starting to get restless. The huffing had begun.

The guard’s voice came over the speaker system again to point out that there had been someone taken ill on another train at the next station and we couldn’t move until the ambulance had sorted them out. My fellow commuters had that ‘i’ll give them a reason for an ambulance’ look on their faces and the huffing had evolved into sly comments and moans; desperate for someone to acknowledge them so they could enter into a mutual bitch about the rail service and how late they were going to be for work. The guy opposite me tried, but I was having none of it.

I texted my partner in crime and fellow manager at work, Sarah, to tell her I was running late. She then promptly rang me.

It’s at this stage that I feel it important to point out that the carriage was deathly silent, despite being wall to wall with people.  All that could be heard aside from the huffing and puffing was the click of phones and keyboards, no doubt moaning digitally to the world about the inconvenience they were having to endure on the nice, warm, comfy train.

Sarah told me she had made it into London, but Victoria underground station was closed due to a fire. When I replied “Victoria is closed?” you can only imagine the reaction of my sardined brethren. I took this opportunity to smile and reply with, “I think you’ve just made me the most unpopular person on this train!” .  This earned me a couple of grins but mostly a mass ‘for fuck’s sake’ groan rose from everyone.  They were all staring at me like I’d just laid my manhood across the table and asked anyone if they wanted to plug in my dongle.

Sarah told me she’d decided to attempt getting a bus to work and we ended our call so I could begin fielding questions from my new ‘friends’. They were so happy to hear that the stress was going to continue when they reached London.

The guard came over the tannoy a couple more times to tell us we weren’t moving, which we’d figured out considering the scenery had stopped going past the window.

The guy opposite me stopped huffing and puffing long enough to jokingly ask the pregnant woman if she was planning to go into labour.  Personally I thought she should start looking at good schools because we may be here a very, very long time.

Eventually we started to move and there was an inaudible, but definite, sigh of relief.

Three minutes into our breakneck journey of 1mph the guard then announced there was a fire at Victoria and the underground was closed.

Cue a massive groan.

Everyone looked at me and half smiled. I held my hands up, smiled back and gave my best ‘see I told you…don’t shoot the messenger’ face. Suddenly I felt cool and current with my finger on the pulse of shit going down. Mostly I was just thankful that I was no longer the misguided focus of their blame.

So after 3.5hrs commuting into work and subsequently turning up late, there was nothing I loved more than “so glad you could join us” and “good afternoon” quips from my lovely colleagues.

I need a coffee.  Now.

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