Skip to main content

My Train Nemesis - The race for the last seat is on, and i don't want to lose.

We stood side by side at the edge of the platform, both taking our places near the yellow lines signifying the edge.
I hoped and prayed that today I would be the lucky one, that I would be in the correct place when the train stopped and doors opened so that I could grab that perennial last seat in the carriage.
I had already taken my place so knew I couldn't change position again. You can't just change platform position once you have picked your spot, not without making the people next to you think you are quite strange, and knowing you were preparing yourself tactically, not just by chance like we all pretend. The only way to change your platform position is to do that thing where you pretend to take a few steps back to look at trains arrivals board again, then start all over again and take a new position, apparently oblivious to the fact you were standing somewhere else a few seconds earlier. The morning commute is full of these kinds of pitfalls and silent secret plans.
On that day though 'he' was in my favoured position next to me; I really hadn't expected to end up with a train nemesis, but (and I admit I sound like a child for saying this) he started it so I felt duty bound to compete with him on a Monday to Friday basis.
The journey from Ely to Cambridge was thirty minutes, a lot of people disembarked at Cambridge meaning most people who continued the journey got a seat, but it was a long thirty minutes to wait when you're the one left standing, silently cursing the seated ones that on that day have been victorious.
It was during my first week in Ely our first encounter took place. 
I was still finding my way, checking out the facilities, getting a feel for my new daily journey. I decided on that day to take a position at the far end of the platform, and on that day, on that part of the platform is where the rivalry started, over a total misunderstanding.
I stood next to a man of around 50, hair greying, but sporty looking, he was wearing cycling clothes, so I thought he must have ridden to the station. 
Cycling seems to be the latest ‘thing’ for men of a certain age to take up.  It is the mid-life crisis of this decade. The need to date unsuitable women and get a sports car has been replaced by an urge to wear Lycra and talk about segment times, but each to their own I guess.
I think as I first took my place next to him he may have said good morning to me, I couldn't be sure, I'm sure I heard him say something, but I had my in-ear headphones in, so I didn't reply as I wasn't sure. Afterwards I saw a change in his body language, but by then it was too late to reply, the moment had gone and left me looking like the rudest person on the platform, rather than someone just listening to a pod-cast oblivious to his surroundings.
I was wondering how to convey a ‘oh my music is loud I can’t hear anything’ expression, by taking out my ear buds in an over-elaborate way, I was still wondering how to do this a moment (roughly one and a half to three minutes) later as our train started to slow down.
The train pulled into the station and the doors opened right in front of me, I smiled and climbed on board.
I still felt bad about the whole not saying hello business, so wanted to do something, or say something to make it right.
I noticed on my left and at the back of a carriage were two empty seats.
“After you” I said to him,  and pointed towards the empty seats.  I thought, this would be a nice gesture, he could climb on, and then I could sit down in the other seat, all damage repaired. Who knows, we could even become train buddies, someone to share the journey with to help pass the time, he may be local so may be able to fill me in on places to go, things to see and do in Ely, this was the start of a great friendship...  I could just feel it.
As I stalled to daydream someone came in through another door in the carriage and sat down,  in the last remaining seat next to my so called new ‘train buddy’. 
He laughed a sneering laugh in my direction, and so it began.  
From that point forwards I had a train nemesis.
After that day I tried to get to the station a few minutes earlier, just to make sure I was in pole position, at the end of the platform, just opposite the exact centre of the locoexpresso coffee shop on platform one, the place where I knew the train doors will open up directly in front of me, and I could enter the carriage and slump down in the last remaining seat in the carriage, leaving my train nemesis standing.
Although I got there first most mornings and got that seat, I still felt somehow behind from that first morning when he laughed at me, I always felt like somehow he was winning.
Then after a few weeks he vanished. 
I had the luxury of knowing the golden place was mine unrivalled, but the sport and the sense of challenge were gone. 
I found myself leaving home a bit later, my reason for being there early now gone. Without a nemesis there to challenge me the journey seemed that bit longer, and duller.
Then one day I caught the slightly earlier train, and there 'he'  was, in what I now regarded as my chosen spot. I stood as close to him as was comfortably possible, and although nothing was audibly said I'm sure we both knew the battle had begun.
As the train approached the platform I recited my daily morning train mantra over and over in my head, "please stop opposite me, please stop opposite me"
And for once the train gods were smiling on me, and it did, right in front of me. 
I smirked as inwardly as I could manage and boarded the train ahead of my rival.
There were two seats at the back of the carriage once again, as there had been that very first morning, and I suddenly saw a chance to make peace. 
Whilst I had been enjoying the competition, I felt it would be even better to put our differences aside once and for all, be the bigger man.  I decided to let him pass me and have the first seat, he would then see that I wasn't so bad after all, and we could both move on with our lives, both having learnt a little bit about human kindness.
I stepped aside to let him through, a look of surprise on his face, this was it, a new beginning, a brave new dawn, I smiled.
He sat down on the seat closest to the window, and before I could get there to sit down had put his rucksack on last available seat in the carriage next to him, and immediately pretended to go to sleep.
Bugger it.
Forget peace,  I decided that the next time I saw his stupid little bike I would let his tyres down.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

James Bond

I was working in an office doing quite a dull job, surrounded by men and women a lot older than me. I was the office junior and token young person. Most of my colleagues were nice, apart from one woman in the next department. She was OK but to my 18-year-old self, she was just so so boring. Her name was Maureen, and whenever she had the chance she used to corner me and talk to me about her daughters, and her allotment and jam-making, and lots of things I had no absolutely no interest in at all, I would always try to make excuses not to talk to her.

One day a new girl started temping in the next department, the same age as me, and really attractive too, apparently she was working for the summer while she was home from university.
Now usually I am a very timid and awkward man, but on this day I saw her on her own at lunchtime in the canteen and decided to go over and sit next to her. I don't know what came over me, maybe it was because the only person I'd had to talk to of my o…

The Cupboard of Doom.

The cupboard of doom. I know what you're thinking, it sounds like a really disappointing Harry Potter story. But is not. 
It's actually the place I most fear in our flat. 
Although perhaps fear is too strong a word. Annoyed by. Irked. Irritated by.  It's like that thing you forget exists, and then you remember and it really irritates you all over again.  It's bloody Piers Morgan. Some people don't like their spooky attic or cobweb filed loft, for me it's the narrow cupboard just to the right of the cupboard under the sink. That's where the food containers and plastic boxes live, and the leftover containers from the Chinese takeaway, waiting patiently for me to open the cupboard door so they can all jump out at me, like a toppling Tupperware tower of terror. It happens every time. I forget until the very moment the door swings open, but then it's already too late, a plastic tsunami engulfs my feet, and I have to spend the next five minutes trying to match up the…

Adopted