“What size are your shoes?” were the first words I was greeted with at work today. I wasn’t expecting this. To be fair, it’s an unusual question at the best of times but moreso when you are expecting queries concerning the time you have thought fit to turn up to work versus the time they were expecting you to turn up.

Although I loathed Brownies and never saw the point of Guides I did always quite like the Scouts’ idea of being prepared and as I had travelled in to work I had mused on some possible excuses for being late*, ably assisted by the driver with whom I was hitching a lift. Drivers have an innate ability to come up with the most wonderful excuses, all of which are implausible yet none of which can be disproved. Hard as it is to believe, I’m actually a rank amateur when it comes to weaseling my way out of things. Naturally, when breezing in late complete with an air of insouciance one expects to answer questions but somehow “The signaller kept putting up red signals”, or “kids were messing with the doors and delayed the train I was on”, or “I was standing in a field with this huge satellite dish sticking out of my…” didn’t really deal with the matter at hand. On raising a puzzled eyebrow I was advised that a colleague had somehow managed to split the sole of her shoe.

This sounded like bad news on two counts. Firstly, shoes are part of our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and if you don’t have the right shoes you shouldn’t be driving. There is a possibility that if the driver has to go onto the track and accidentally touches a power rail with their foot then direct contact might be made between juice and skin. Not a pleasant thought. But more importantly…why are they asking about my shoes??!?!?!

It turned out to be a rare piece of common sense on the part of the DMT. Knowing that I live reasonably close to the drivers’ depot he was hoping that I had a spare pair of shoes and could nip home and pick them up for Cinderella. Thus she could carry out her duty and trains wouldn’t have to be cancelled. Cancelling trains always requires an explanation to the Line Controller and it’s a lot of paperwork for the DMTs. Amusing though it would be to watch a DMT explain he was cancelling trains due to a lack of shoes, I decided to play nicely since all the palaver over shoes appeared to have superseded my little faux pas over timekeeping. I handed over a shoe and it more or less fit Cinderella. Much discussion ensued about how Cinders was going to be furnished with new footwear and who would be driving what train in order to achieve this. After that the plan started to unravel swiftly as there were not enough spares to permit me to ditch my first trip to fetch the extra shoes. Still…at least I got away with being late.

Well not really. When I booked-on I realised that I’d noted down my duty time wrongly and I was actually doing a slightly later duty. This left me feeling oddly aggrieved. I’d successfully managed to distract attention from being late by blethering about shoes and here I was not actually late after all. Tch.

So the day passed uneventfully with me rattling up and down as is the norm. My second-to-last train was to be taken up to the train depot and left for pampering. I was scheduled to hang about there for a bit and bring a freshly pampered train down to the sidings beside the drivers’ depot so it would be all clean and lovely for customers in the morning. This train was to run empty which is something I love cos it’s FAST! Annoyingly though, the train is not timetabled to be stabled until the exact moment that the last homewardbound train leaves the platform. Technically this means I have to book a line taxi and wait an hour for it to turn up. Usually I get round this by asking the DMT to get a spare to take it from me on one platform and stable it while I race across the bridge and jump on my train home. Sadly, there was no spare tonight so I had to stable myself and even though I got in early I still missed the last train by about 8 seconds.

All was not lost. As I stamped around the platform, gently cursing into the evening breeze, another train pulled up. It turned out to be going up to be pampered and this was the driver’s last trip of the night. A bit of thinking was done and keys swiftly exchanged. Now, it’s not technically acceptable for me to take an extra train but what the hell. It allows me to get up to the depot (and I live very close to the train depot) and it allows the other driver to go and do whatever it is that other drivers do when they are not driving trains. So long as nobody official notices we are not where we are supposed to be then everything works out fine. And I was confident that nobody would pay any attention to me tonight. They’re all still running around trying to find some shoes…

*I was playing Xeno Tactic since you ask.