Am I the only person who is a bit paranoid now about doing anything on public transport that might be perceived in any way out of the ordinary? This morning I had to be in Earley, early* and I thought I had left enough time to catch the 7:20 from Waterloo (calling at just about everywhere) but I had forgotten that, this being a Monday, the queue at the ticket windows would be out the door. I managed to find the one ticket machine that had neither an out of order sign nor a queue but which wouldn’t take cards and found that its idea of a ten pound note (freshly pressed and delivered crisp and clean from a cash machine) and mine (crumpled rag found stuffed in my pocket) differed. With 30 seconds to go and the queue for the next machine four deep, I gritted my teeth, mentally apologised to all of the people I’d ever told off for not buying tickets, and sprinted for the train. Whereupon my bag flew open and everything in it fell out. With the pips going, I only had enough time to scrabble my possessions back together and leap through the nearest door, ticketless, flustered, in a hurry and fiddling with my backpack.
Which is when I remembered that I had confidently arranged to meet my colleague, who was joining the train at Twickenham, at the front of the train. And that I had 9p credit on my mobile, not even enough to send a text. The train was long enough that I couldn’t walk up the whole way on the inside and so this meant waiting for the next station, getting off, walking up the platform and then getting on again. Which is where the paranoia kicks in. I have another colleague at work who regularly misses his connection at Clapham Junction because he doesn’t want to be the bearded swarthy bloke sprinting through the station with a backpack on his back. And an article in the Guardian a couple of months back highlighted the story of someone who was arrested for such suspicious signs as ‘ignoring the armed policemen in the station’, ‘fiddling with his backpack’ and (I may be paraphrasing a trifle here) ‘looking a bit French’. I don’t know where getting on and off the same train rates in the suspicion stakes but it’s probably up there with being a Brazilian electrician…
Anyway none of this was helped by (or indeed excuses) the new, seasonal, and entirely patronising security announcement that they were playing on the Kew Bridge platform this evening. For one horrified moment I thought they were now playing adverts over the tannoy but no, it was just a reminder to remain vigilant and report to staff ‘if you see anything at all suspicious.’
Like what, exactly?
* Sorry, had to be done