Beautiful Train… Eh?

A Friday evening train… expectations are not unusual, dear friends. However, this evening two small Spanish women, dressed like midget Julia Roberts(es) in “Pretty Woman” climb aboard, bedecked with small adorable toddler.

I smile at them.

They dare to look at me as though “I” am the victim of the strange tableaux. The word “loca” escapes one of the mini Juliae as they raise their bushy eyebrows and stare in my direction.

As if this is not odd enough, the random bearded gentleman in wheelchair, who sits betwixt the exit doors, informs them (two stops later) that it is time to depart. All leave together.

I ask you, good people… am I in a random episode of Twin Peaks??!


Mrs I Heart Coffee

She is quiet, reads a paper, takes a pen out of her bag and does her crossword.  She is well-behaved, unassuming… normal.  In my imagination, I see that she has a satisfactory family life, goes to Parent & Teacher evenings at her children’s school, bakes cakes which the neighbours describe as “deliciously moist”.  I can see that she took care when dressing herself this morning. 

She sits with her takeaway coffee.  She is not picking her nose or ears, she is not chewing gum or rubbing her nipples.  She is you.  She is me.  Sheeeeeee…  IS NOT!!! 

Just when one has begun their daily travel ritual under the false belief that on this day one will enjoy an uneventful journey, Mrs I Heart Coffee picks up her heat-proof cup and lifts it to her mouth.  Now, of course, this act is not unusual in any way – people all across the world are enjoying hot drinks from thermal insulated vessels – and, while a cup of coffee is a delicious beverage, I grant you, I am left pondering, as she lowers her cup and places it back on the table… is it now the fashion to give thanks to the coffee gods by poking out one’s tongue and licking the entire rim of the cup? 

Beware the Valentrain

Definition A form of locomotive containing the beautiful ones who are in love and journeying forth to celebrate the day of St. Valentine.

Even a brief beautiful journey on the Valentrain will result in injury and / or loss and damage. 

Injuries sustained will generally be as a consequence of the carelessly carried long-stemmed rose.  The thorny legs of this glorious devil are recklessly swung about by well-meaning but clumsy Lotharios as they grapple with the delicate balance of foliage versus personal space. 

As the bearers of these gifts of subtle weaponry perform acts of contortionism to protect their precious cargo, a strange dance of avoidance, embarrassment, impatience, pain and apology plays out in the limited space of the carriage, the crux of which is an unexpected lashing or eye-gouging. 

Travel safely on this day, dear hearts, for St. Valentine – the patron saint not only of love but of bee-keepers, fainting, epilepsy and plague – does not look kindly on the commuter.

Our friend – “Mr Sells Tickets Man”

He is generally the woe begotten train dweller who is forbidden to leave.  He is many.  He is on every train… an omnipresent being.  He is Mr Sells Tickets Man.

Mr Sells Tickets Man is nice, mean, loud, quiet, happy, surly or all of the above.  He will wander the aisles slowly, carefully maintaining his balance, murmuring his call… “Tickets… Tickets…”.  Occasionally we will stop him and partake of his offer.  He will take our money – though he does not necessarily want to – for it will never be his.

On this particular day, Mr Sells Tickets Man stops, presses the pretty coloured buttons on his ticket-making machine and produces the magical paper of safe passage for the gentleman opposite me (we will call him Buys Tickets Man).

Not so strange, indeed, for it is true that this same act is occurring thus on the beautiful journey everywhere… but today, as he walks away, he offers to Buys Tickets Man the parting words “Thank you, my friend”.

This gets me to wondering:  What about the rest of us?  For the fact is that Buys Tickets Man has only bought passage for this solitary day.  I, on the other hand, have a yearly season ticket.

Perhaps it would be wise for me to expect Mr Sells Tickets Man for Christmas this year…

Beautiful Freak Security Breach!!!

Today I have broken a cardinal rule of the travelling voyeur. The fault of this lies with a sneaky little thing known as “Commuter Fatigue“.

Ohhhhh, Commuter Fatigue, a crafty enemy… a foe all-too familiar to the rodent race of beautiful ones.

The non-commuter is oft heard musing: “It must be lovely to have the chance to sleep on the way to work!“. To them I say “No!! Bad non-commuter!!“, for this crafty little bugger, born of late nights and long journeys, travelling in the guise of involuntary sleepiness, will attack – in one way or another – when you least expect it. 

Now, this creeping epidemic isn’t just an enemy to Madame Voyeur, dear friends – no, no! Commuter fatigue (we’ll call it “CF“) affects us all!

CF’s cleverly timed attack may hit you only a short way into the trip – it is the moment where you feel your body go heavy and limp; your eyelids begin to close – all is good, warm, comfortable. The next thing you are aware of is being rudely awakened by the crackling “BING BONG!!!!” of the broken speaker in your carriage. As the distorted and disjointed voice of Mrs Nice Voice Electronic Lady begins her lovely tale of the places on the beautiful journey – “The next stop is…” – you find that you are no longer the perfect picture of peace in which you had arranged yourself – rather, your head has inexplicably fallen backwards and your mouth is gaping wide open – the look plastered on your face a telling story of the mixed shock and embarrassment that you are feeling. Was I snoring? You may never know, for it is a secret your fellow carriage dwellers will never part with. 

You may sometimes be aware that you are falling victim to Commuter Fatigue. You prepare yourself:- cross your arms, snuggle down into your seat, brace yourself and allow yourself to be rocked to sleep by the arms of mother train. What you did not expect was… THE SHOCK!! For no good reason you wake in a state of high alert, the sound escaping from your mouth and into the silent carriage is something akin to “Bnnnyuh!!“. As your fellow inmates laugh quietly to themselves (some sharing a sympathetic “been there” smile), CF adds a notch to its tally and pats itself on the back.

You may fall foul of CF’s general malaise. This feeling is something you become party to only when you realise that you’ve been staring into space, mouth agape – giving your best stab at the ‘displaced refugee‘ look – and the person near the door, who has been the unfortunate object of your vacant gaze for the last five minutes, starts to look uncomfortable and gathers their belongings to move to the next carriage, snapping you back into reality. The shock of this realisation – along with your unfortunate slack jaw reeling itself back into your face like a recoiling tape measure – scares each of you as badly as the other. Your embarrassment is the creator of your new-found fascination in EVERYTHING ELSE. Whatever object you can first lay your eyes on demands your immediate attention – never before has the view outside the window been so glorious! (Damn it, you’re in a tunnel!!) But you… you victims of the moment… each of you, for your own reasons, WILL NOT look at each other again.

But this day, Beautiful Confidants (for this is who you are), my Commuter Fatigue struck in a place I never expected. I was not on the train, quietly viewing from my window seat – I was still at the station in the newspaper shop. Yawning my way to the counter, I paid, received my change with blurry-eyed thanks and turned around to leave. Seeing a familiar face, I smiled and said hello – breezy, light, like I know this suited man who is chewing gum. He looks confused. “Should I know this person?“, he wonders.

I have taken only a few steps from the shop when the realisation dawns on me and a solitary sound — “Nyughhh!!” — escapes my horrified face. GUM!!! I have interacted with one of the Beautiful Train Freaks!!!

For the love of all that’s holy… what was the first lesson I learned in Voyeur class at Ninja Commuter School? Never… blow… your… cover!!!

The golden rule of the travelling voyeur is to NEVER forget the basic fact that… I DO NOT KNOW YOU – I MERELY SEE YOU.

So, good people, it is here that I find myself. What will the days ahead bring? Will this random specimen of travelling man from this day forth be known as “Gum Chewing Nipples Guy who Smiles at and” … god forbid… “TALKS to me” ??!

Only time – and the beautiful onwards journey – will tell…


Introducing… “Super Invisible Picks Things Guy”

Super Invisible Picks Things Guy wears a suit and a plain tie; he carries a briefcase and displays important looking pieces of paper on the table before him – right next to his shiny travel mug – for all to admire.

Now, this isn’t just a clever name, for Super Invisible Picks Things Guy picks things… many things. Beginning with the finger-fresh spring cleanse of his nasal cavities right through to a thorough ear excavation with his shiny Parker pen – he is a stalwart picker.

Is this the extent of his talent? It is not, sir! What this specimen of beautiful freak fails to obtain through picking he shall be sure to catch with the guttural snort-fest that follows. He doesn’t do these things because of a burning need, an insatiable itch, a painful affliction – no. Super Invisible Picks Things Guy LIKES to pick. And, what’s more, he thinks no one can see (or hear) him.

As each carefully chosen finger digs for whatever nuggetty goodness it can find, he clings firmly to the belief that he is invisible. He is congratulated by his inner voice, which sings: “Oh cunning, am I !!! No mortal can see past my invisible cloak of picking wonder!!”.

However, Super Invisible Picks Things Guy CAN BE SEEN!!! Why? Because we, his commuting brethren, have those new-fangled eye doodads that SEE!

As we watch, disgusted, transfixed by the grot festival playing out before us, he looks up to stare defiantly at we fools who see nought… and a glimmer of doubt crosses his face. He asks himself: “Can it be that they have perforated the magic of my wondrous shield?” before agreeing with himself that we have not and embarking upon his next picking expedition.

For his finale, ladies and gentlemen, our hero gets up at the end of his journey, throws a mixed look of disgust and pity at his fellow commuters [eh?!], and alights the train.

And so the beautiful journey continues…

A Beautiful Journey

There are approximately 225 working days in my year.  Of those, I spend approximately 450 hours on a train getting to and from my place of employment.  I work in London and am of the downtrodden race known as the rat.

I am 33 and female, I am friendly (though occasionally caustic), I love my family and friends, I enjoy few things more than a bit of socialising and a good laugh.  I sing in a band.  I am theatrical and dramatic both on and off the stage.  Moreover, I am a general malcontent.

When I’m not challenging myself to such normal passtimes as reading for five minutes without falling asleep, social networking through the magnificent all-knowing iPhone, mastering the ancient art of Sudoku, crocheting a blanket (yes, I’m occasionally that person in office-wear who looks like they have no right to be in a modern setting: too young to be doing it and yet old enough to know that the act of crocheting in public in 2012 is a li’l bit weird and deserves the sideways glances it receives – a freak in my own right you could say),  or falling asleep - head bent forward and lolling about like a bladder on a stick while I am rocked by the comforting cradle rhythm of the late-running Southeastern train - then I am watching.  People watching.  Or, rather, waiting.  Because they all come to me.
The beautiful train freaks.

My needs are simple – I require nothing more than a window seat and a little peace.  I’m not the person who is sitting in the carriage staring and making Joe Commuter feel uncomfortable – no.  I am minding my own business, looking out the window, glancing up occasionally from my book or my snooze.  I do not seek them out – I am merely alerted by their strange sounds, appearance or… smell.

Catching the same train most days, I have amassed a small band of “regulars“, such as (to name a few):

Gum chewing nipples guy:  This middle aged specimen of the commuting man delights in chewing gum.  In his business suit, he masticates with an indescribable glee: slurps, breathes heavily, sniffs and snorts.  And, dear reader, though no reasonable being could expect more, to this repertoire monsieur adds his grand finale by reaching up to his chest with one hand and stroking his nipples with a strange, satisfied smile playing on his face.

Gooch stroker guy:  (See:- A younger Gum chewing nipples guy but without the gum and substituting nipples for gooch)

Body builder guy:  Friendly, smiley, says the occasional word of greeting – is built like a brick sh*thouse.  Eats tiny pots of petit filou.  I expect will start crocheting any day soon.

Novel writing guy:  Sits protectively over laptop like a Disney cartoon vulture.  Scowls at everyone who walks past or wants to sit down near him.  Types things like: “I will now tell you the secret of the formula” and smiles, satisfied, to himself.

Chatty chat lady:  Talks… to… everyone… anyone… a lot… about everything… ever.  Specialist subject:  Everyone should talk to each other more and, oh, people must find it so annoying when she chats to them so much [Me (politely): "Oh no, not at all!"] but she doesn’t mind because she thinks people should talk more.  Talking is what makes the world go round.  It’s so lovely to be able to talk to strangers.  Isn’t this train quiet!!? Not enough people talk these days, don’t you think??????

There’s strange comfort in the presence of these regulars - however, most encounters with the beautiful freaks are random and fleeting.

It is here that I shall document them… and the world of beautiful freaks at large.