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So there I was, doing that traindriver thing of hanging out in tunnels.

And one of The Voices insisted I drag myself into the filth and the dust and talk to him on the phone. Only to tell me some completely random bit of information that he could reasonably have told me on the train. This wasn’t a problem as such cos it’s kinda fun getting down and strolling around the tunnels where people aren’t really supposed to go. There are usually interesting things to see and the graffiti of the other drivers to read (it’s amazing how much can be scratched in tunnel dust) plus the interest of why you are there in the first place.

There is always a slight trepidation associated with getting out of the train. For starters: I’m getting out of my cab!!!! I always find that slightly weird as an experience. Most of my day goes by in a small box with no company whatsoever. It’s not the nicest environment I guess but it’s mine and I am used to it. Having to get out of there feels very slightly disturbing. Even more so when I have to go out the back way and walk past customers in the train. I did not take this job for the human interaction!

Getting into the tunnels has a whole different set of worries. Will I forget to interrupt the OPO alarm and accidentally have the train tell The Voices that I’ve died? Will one of the live rails move over and bite me? Will my train come to life and run me over? Although I’m very much not bothered about being near trains there is always an awareness that they are distantly related to diggers which , despite their disguise of cheery yellow are (as everyone knows) malignant, self-propelling machines of death bent on the total annihalation of humanity*. So it’s worth being careful around trains even though it’s less of a concern for me than for, say, a “driver” on the Victoria Line where the addled fools who run the place have given the trains AI.

Once in the tunnel I am perfectly happy aside from trying to work out how to stay clean. The dirt is unbelievable. When I was only a minor delay and living in the far wilds of the country I used to occasionally play in the coal bunker. Despite spending many hours in there (much to my mother’s annoyance) I never got as dirty as a few minutes in the tunnels get me. Even something simple like picking up the tunnel phone becomes a major problem as there is the whole dilemma of actually listening to what The Voice is telling you vs getting a black ear from the tunnel dust coating it. Sometimes it’s a tough call as to which is more important.

Once I had been given the completely pointless bit of information which I could have received in the cab I scrambled all the way back up (trains are taller than you’d think if you’ve only ever experienced them from platform level) and turned the light on to view the damage. Just as I thought, completely black hands. I cast about me for some solution. Naturally I could not wipe my hands on the seats in the cab because drivers have to sit on them. Likewise it’s tricky to wipe one’s hands on the passengers seats due to them sitting there and objecting. In the end I opened the cab door and asked the nearest customer to pass me a newspaper. They duly complied. Of course it was only after retreating back to my safe place that I realised this was probably not the most reassuring thing a driver can do when a train is inexplicably sitting in a tunnel for ages. Oops.

*Yes, even these ones.