The Quiet Carriage and My Enemy

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17:15

I’m standing at the station waiting for my train which has been delayed by six minutes, so already I’m not in the highest of spirits.

A helpful tannoy announcement reminds me and my fellow travellers not to walk off without our bags;

Please do not leave luggage unattended on the station. Luggage left unattended may be removed without warning, or destroyed or damaged by the security services

I can understand why it may be removed and destroyed. Worst case scenario the bag contains a bomb so it makes sense to deal with it by removing it and / or destroying it.

But why would you damage it?

Barry: “Tell Gaz to get the axe… there may be an explosive in this rucksack so we’d better hack away at it until the bag is well and truly damaged.”

Terry: “Maybe we should cut one of the straps off too?”

Barry: “Good idea Terry, tell Gaz to bring scissors too. Tell him it’s a code red.”

Anyway… despite being bothered by delays and stupid announcements I did not expect to make an enemy on this commute. But that’s exactly what was about to happen.

Finally the train arrives and on I clamber, finding an empty pair of seats.

“This will do nicely” I think to myself, because saying it out loud would make me sound weird.

And there’s another reason I’m glad I didn’t say it out loud. As I relax into the seat I notice that on the windows are signs saying “quiet carriage” – this doesn’t bother me though since I’m alone and own earphones.

Everyone so far is observing the rules impeccably, but as it’s Friday I’ve bought a beer for the forty minute trip home.

17:35 – A Misjudgement

“Surely opening a glass bottle of beer can’t be too loud can it?” are the final thoughts that cross my mind before discovering that opening a bottle in the quiet carriage is absolutely deafening.

I feel the whole carriage shift uneasily in their seats as they hear the noise of a slightly disturbed glass bottle being opened. As far as they’re concerned I may as well have conducted a marching band through the carriage.

I look to my right and as I do so I catch the eye of a middle aged man who had been glaring at me, but upon meeting my eye looks slowly and deliberately back to his book.

He is wearing a burgundy jumper on top of a plain white cotton shirt. I instantly assume his name is Jonty. Jonty is my new enemy.

The thing is… there are no reserved seats on this train. So how could anyone get on the quiet carriage deliberately? Even if they announced on the platform (which they don’t) that carriage D was the quiet carriage, how could you know where to stand on the platform to enter carriage D? Yet we all pretend we are there on purpose.

In my head I’m 1-0 down to Jonty. But I take inspiration from England’s recent comeback against Croatia in the UEFA Nations League. Come back I would… and how!

18:01 – The Equaliser

A rookie error from my nemesis. A cough. Not just a cough but a loud one. I resist the urge to shout “shut the f**k up!” Instead I stay calm and look up from my phone directly at him. He is pretending to look out of the window, presumably embarrassed and ashamed. I continue to look at him and shake my head any maybe even let out a quiet tut.

Satisfied that he would have either seen me in his peripheral vision, or in the reflection of the window he was pretending to look out of, I consider us level at 1-1.

The next 3 minutes are agony as I need to sneeze but somehow manage to subdue my bodily instinct. And my valiant efforts were about to rewarded.

18:06 – The Winner

Music starts to fill the carriage and the same awkward shuffle that I had caused before takes place. This only lasts a few seconds before the normal silence is resumed but I see Jonty awkwardly tucking his phone back into his pocket. Gotcha!

I shake my head passive aggressively but this time he doesn’t pretend not to notice. He makes a face at me as if to say “what can you do” – I’m not letting him off that lightly! I point at the “quiet carriage” sign. Jonty mouths the word “Sorry”  and holds up both hands as if to say “ok, you win.”

I decide not to celebrate in front of all these commuters, but in my head John Motson is enthusiastically describing a “quite remarkable turnaround”.

18:12 – A final twist in the tale.

Again the carriage is filled with the sound of modern pop music and I think I’m about to go 3-1 up. But this time it’s not the dick opposite, but a new dick sat directly in front of me. And he is about to take it to new heights that will test even the most British of British people.

“Hello? Yeah I’m just on a train”

By the way, no-one has ever taken a phone call on a train without starting by announcing that they are on a train. It’s like they’re proud of it, they think being on a train makes them special. Nine times out of ten they will have a spreadsheet open on a tiny screen, typing loudly to show how clever they are. “The louder I type the more intelligent and important I look” is the hypothesis they subscribe to, which if true would make monkeys smarter than them.

But this numpty has caused something magical to happen. He has united two enemies. I have just made eye contact with Jonty and we share a knowing look that says
“no, we’re both alright, he’s the dick here.”

In a way it’s beautiful. It reminds me of a documentary I watched about how Milwall and Leeds hooligans would come together to kick the s*** out of some foreigners instead of each other.

I look at my glass bottle and then to the top of the blokes bald head which sits just proud of the seat in front of me. Taking inspiration from the patriotic thugs I consider smashing it over his head. I imagine Jonty’s horrified reaction and it makes me smile, but then I think about spending a night in jail and decide it’s not worth it.

Besides my stop is coming up so I should probably focus on getting ready to leave. But there’s a problem. Where is my bag? I must have left it at Temple Meads on the platform.

Maybe I should call the station and ask, but there’s no point… they would have already damaged it by now.

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