Friday, 14 June 2019
Reading time 03 minutes 36 seconds
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” And whispered in the sounds of silence – Paul Simon
When I was young I travelled a lot with my mum on trains. My mind believes we traversed the globe but in reality, we only went to one place. Clacton-on-Sea.
My joy with train travel has lasted and I’ve been on some epic journeys, zig zagging across India, crisscrossing Thailand and I’ve even survived southern London to Brighton, although that was mainly on a bus replacement service.
Not all journeys are fun though as most of the time they are ruined by people. Humans are horrible on trains. With their to-ing and fro-ing, pushing and shoving and offering up seats to folk who are not me. But it is mainly the chat that kills it.
My little cup of joy overflowed when I recently discovered that some train companies have introduced a quiet carriage. Someone felt the same as me in wanting a bit of peace and a feeling of not being alone in the world anymore was answered. This is how Shrek must have felt when he met Princess Fiona.
I now always book a quiet carriage as that stops the chat. I figure I can unwind, sit and watch this gorgeous country pass by and not let it be spoilt by the pesky inhabitants jabbering on.
The people that break my harmonious journeys are those who don’t follow the rules whereas I’m a stickler for rules and always try to follow them. On the windows of the quiet coach for example the stickers clearly state you should “sit back, relax and unwind” and where possible I do that. What tends to happen however is I hunch forward, as I’m so wound up by my non-compliant fellow passengers.
If there was a button to press, so the planet exploded into its component atoms, I’d punch it after the first clearing of some idiot’s throat.
Recently I sat in my booked seat, on the quiet coach, and my promised view was spoilt by a window divider. When I mentioned this to the ticket collector he pointed out it was better because I had two windows.
I then mentioned to him that we were in a quiet coach and asked if he would kindly go and ask the couple speaking 3 seats down to shut their pie holes. In a normal non-quiet carriage this kind of chatter would go unnoticed, but I had paid for, and wanted, serenity. British people don’t like to complain face to face but put us on the phone, or in print, and we become world champions.
I consider myself one part African, or rather was partially raised by an African lady, and my roots have taught me not to take crap from anyone. My Step-Mum tried to instil in me and my siblings to stand up and fight, although not physically. Once me and my step brother had a fight and we got in so much trouble. She said, “Never react with violence, you should use your words Matthew as they are more dangerous than any fist.” In some ways she was like Mr Miyagi or Yoda, but taller and scarier.
So when I am confronted with wanting to complain I get a partially spilt personality and my Britishness kicks in. Be polite, be tolerant, say nothing. Then the angry short African man within says that I should stand up to injustice and be true to the values I was taught and argue for the rights of all.
On the quiet carriage though I chose not to do that in person but with a proxy. The ticket collector. When I put in my request a wry smile crossed his face. It was if he needed permission to enforce the rules and I’d just given it to him.
He was so pleased with the task set that he altogether stopped collecting tickets and strode with purpose. He leaned down and I heard him whisper (badly) that this was a quiet coach, and the other passengers in the area were being disturbed. He suggested they vacate and find another carriage if they wished to continue talking.
They shut up.
I liked this guy, but I’d unleashed a monster.
The ticket collector then took to the tannoy and proceeded to make announcements every few minutes about how people in quiet carriages must be quiet. It disturbed our areas harmony and the irony was not lost me on or the chap opposite me who thought it (quietly) hilarious.
Within minutes a teenager boarded our carriage and proceeded to talk loudly on his phone. The ‘harrumphs’ could be heard in the next carriage. The tannoy man also chipped in to try and shut him up.
And then a beautiful thing happened.
I had empowered people around me like a little William Wallace because the chap opposite turned round and told the teenager the rules, which is what I should have done rather than asking the ticket collector to fight my battles. The teenager departed, complaining about old people, I’m sure he meant the other guy as I only feel old but don’t look it.
I decided that next time I would be brave like my friend opposite and would deal with the matter myself. I’d no longer need others to fight my battles.
And on the return journey I did exactly that and that’s where it all went very horribly wrong.
To be continued…….
Picture: Me, Guinness, Fag, Princess Leia costume. Nothing more is required for Happiness!