Monday, 17 October 2011

Take Me Right Back to the Track, Jack!

This morning I was bouncing on a gentleman’s paunch for 25 minutes.  Ah hem, clear those filthy minds please. For it was in an overcrowded train carriage on the 7.43 where each bump and jostle caused this complete stranger to break every clause in Patrick Swayze’s Dirty Dancing rule “This is your dance space, this is my dance space.” 

Overcrowded rush hour trains are sadly an accepted part of commuting and I have joined this hubbub eversince leaving the luxury of off-peak travel to a theatre job.  I could previously smugly snigger at the squashed faces pressed up against the windows of the trains going in the opposite direction as I travelled into work at 5.30pm and spread out gloriously over a couple of seats on my 11pm journey home where the only annoyance was the odd whiff of post-alcohol induced Burger King munchies.  But now I am one of those squashed faces attempting to read a free newspaper and retain some ounce of personal space.

It is impossible to find a seat between the hours of 7am and 10am no matter how much you sigh and look tired or how many months pregnant you are. (That is a sad fact that I have often had to glare at seated city fat cats on the tube as a heavily pregnant lady sways next to me on a tube and yes, they ignore us and continue to read.)

This man on the 07.43, who was inadvertently caressing me with his middle aged spread, was also really tall.  I know this because the back of my head nestled perfectly in between his man boobs every few seconds.  Now I am sure he didn’t mean this at all, as I said we are all crammed in like blueberry goodness in a glass of Ribena, in fact he probably didn’t even see me.  This is so often the case when you are a 5’1” member of the human race.  People rarely look down that far and so you can often cease to exist.

But despite the B.O ponging, make-up applying or noisy mobile phone beeping perils we have all got a tale about I have also had some nice experiences whilst travelling.

The most notable of which is the time an Australian hunky stranger saved my life.  Sadly this is not an episode of Home and Away or a sudden appearance of Hugh Jackman on the Reading line but a true story of Aussie gallantry none the less!

I was returning home from a day of rehearsals last year embracing the last few days of summer in a white skirt and flip flops.  I floated down the steps at Clapham Junction in time to board my train but as I stepped up into the carriage I was unaware of a perilous kiwi fruit squished on the platform.  My flip flops were not designed to withstand such obstacles as discarded snacks and so I slipped and fell in between the train and the platform and onto the tracks.  One flip flop lay on the tracks as I clung from the metal step with the train about to depart.  I was later told that if I was slightly taller ( a heightest comment, I feel) or perhaps fatter then it wouldn’t have happened but regrets at not eating enough doughnuts in my life were far from my mind as I hung amid the diesel fumes.

The doors made that familiar shriek at their imminent closing as a large pair of hands appeared from above and scooped me into the carriage just as the train set off. In a state of shock I stood (as I couldn’t sit because my coccyx was no longer where it should be,) face to face with a bloke in a suit who was asking if I was ok.  Was I? Well I had a weird kiwi smelling stain on the back of my skirt, one flip flop on, I kept trying to sit to appear normal and rebounding back up from the pain and I was trying not to cry.  I looked like a refugee from a night out in Faliraki that you often see stumbling about on late night holiday-rep programmes.

But of course I tried to appear fine.  Joking about it and answering any questions I was asked about myself just like a normal conversation aboard a train.  I hobbled off at my station assuring this charming Aussie that I was fine and would get a cab home and promptly burst into hysterical tears and phoned my mum.

Days later, when I was slowly regaining my dignity, I had a phone call from my editor at a magazine I write for.  An Australian business man had contacted him after “Googling” my name to check if I was alright.  I was a single girl at the time and so my mind raced with rom-com storylines and delight at a wonderful way to meet a literal Prince Charming.  I can’t lie – I did imagine his wedding speech starting with the story of how we met and us all laughing nostalgically at the romantic tale!

But I came back down to earth with a bump not too dissimilar to landing beneath a train.  His emails insinuated he was married but was still happy to meet me, (in other words - a dodgy McIdiot philanderer,) why do all Prince Charmings end up that way?  So I stopped emailing him and began emailing the South West Trains complaints department instead– a much better use of my time!

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