I’m beginning to think this move is a good thing. Not just because Silverlink appears to be conspiring with the other half and making the last couple of weeks’ journeys nightmares – hot, crowded (what ever happened to those school holidays?) & later than ever. The prospect of those comfortable modern air conditioned – air conditioned – South-west trains slinking through South London is beginning to seem attractive. But it’s also because I have become a bit too much of a regular on the train these days – people are beginning to acknowledge my existence.
This morning one of the other regulars addressed me. We both arrived at the station at the same time, glanced up at the column of ‘on times’ on the monitor (surely whoever omitted this work of fiction from the Booker Longlist will see sense next year) and said, ‘Here’s hoping for a better service today.’ For readers who are not from the South of England, perhaps I should explain. There are four basic conditions under which it is acceptable to interact with your fellow passengers:
1. You are asking them to do something, or for information. (is this the way to San Jose? Could you get your bag off my foot?)
2. There is a particularly entertaining piece of mayhem going on, or a particularly egregious excuse has been offered (please confine this to rolling your eyes or similar, and don’t use it as the basis for a conversation)
3. Your train has been stuck in a tunnel for longer than an hour, or possibly blown up by a terrorist.
4. You are already married to them (and even then, don’t overdo it. Nobody wants to see tongues).
Now making wry comments to fellow passengers when nothing has gone wrong yet, while not in itself unpleasant, constitutes a slippery slope. You see, I see this guy every day. We get on at the same door, and in fact there has long been a certain amount of manoeuvering between us as to who gets pole position when the train pulls in. If we start exchanging pleasantries in the morning, where will it end? Allowing each other on first? Making conversation during the journey? I once got stuck with making increasingly stilted conversation with a fellow passenger for almost two months until I cracked and changed my regular carriage. This sort of thing is painful to a creature of habit.
Anyway, I replied, nothing more was said and we stood side by side looking in opposite directions until the train arrived. I think we’ve got away with it. But if he does it again, that’s it, I’m moving to the back.
Total time wasted today: 14 minutes
Total time wasted to date: 9 hours 18 minutes