You know, this is kind of embarrassing. And truly I’m really sorry about it. The name was just a joke really. I meant to come to London for a year and then sorta got side-tracked and then I fell into traindriving and just stayed. But the basic intent was always to leave at some point and start up a miniature elephant farm on Stornoway where the days are long and the foliage lush. Really, the name *was* just a joke.
And here I sit having caused hours of travel chaos inside of a week. All entirely unintentionally and if it makes anyone feel any better the whole debacle has inconvenienced me just as much as the rest of the passengers. Does it help? Even slightly? Oh. Oh, well then. I’ll just get on with explaining how none of it was my fault.
The first was a near-miss. This is a technical term which involves not actually killing someone with a train. Fortunately for me it wasn’t my train and fortunately for the driver we managed to stop in time. Has anyone ever seen the Pink Windmill? With Grotbags? Remember the bit where the hilarious madcap action would suddenly stop as everyone watched an inexplicable hedgehog amble across the bottom of the screen? And then as soon as the inexplicable hedgehog had disappeared from view the shenanigans would start again? Well that’s pretty much what happened here. The train was suddenly stood on its nose and the driver and I watched a drunk stumble across four live tracks, climb a fence and disappear. I’m not exactly sure where he came from and I wouldn’t be astonished if it turns out he just materialised there. What was surprising was that no other trains appeared and he didn’t fall on the live rails and electrocute himself. He had less joy with the fence though as it took several attempts to scale it and once he got to the top he fell off. Luckily he toppled down the other side so the driver was able to collect his thoughts and carry on. The driver was met by a manager at the next station and taken off for a cuppa while I got on with my day.
Not such a disastrous incident you might think. I thought the same until a few days later when I was riding in the back of a different train. As I was reading Nemi I heard a slight commotion and glanced up to see the young woman next to me keel over. While this was probably not good news for her, it was entirely awful for me as I was the only person there in uniform and every eye turned to me expecting a sudden LEAP into action. And I hadn’t got to the final panel of Nemi yet!
Notwithstanding this hardship I put down my paper, assessed her condition (spark out) and pulled the passenger alarm to let the driver know what was going on and to call an ambulance. Then I dredged up my first aid training from a past life and made sure she was comfortable. She came round after a few minutes but was still very woozy so the driver kindly held the train rather than have her dragged off to the platform. There wasn’t much to do really and mostly I was just passenger wrangling and waiting for a paramedic to turn up. Oh and briefly wrestling with a rather over-eager nurse who suddenly raced in and seemed to want to leap on top of the poor girl and rip her clothing off. In the end I have to shove her back and point out that as the young woman had spoken to me thirty seconds previously there was probably no immediate need to assess that she still had a pulse. In contrast, the paramedic who turned up shortly after seemed calm and sensible and did a proper assessment before helping carry her to the platform. And so we carried on and I amused myself by thinking that twice being involved incidents within a week was a remarkable coincidence. And also entirely forgot to read the last panel of Nemi. 😦
The following day I got on a bus. And then stood hovering in the doorway watching the driver and a would-be passenger having a screaming match. I didn’t quite follow the details but there was something about a dog and a collar and a hearing aid and an excessively stroppy bus driver mixed with a kid standing on its dignity who reminded me of Perry – not least because I couldn’t tell if it was male or female despite it being approximately teenage. I’ve never quite worked out if Kathy Burke was supposed to be a boy when she was Perry. Anyone know? What I bet you don’t know is that the coldest part of London is the doorway to a bus? True fact. In desperation I intervened and tried to calm things down.
I am always amazed that adults seem so aggressive towards teenagers. I think it’s a fear thing built up by media hysterics but aggressive behaviour generally just gets the same back – it’s amazing what a reasonable approach does. People have often asked me whether I worry about teenagers causing trouble on my trains. It’s funny they don’t ask about the adults who are much more likely to smash the train up or abuse staff – in contrast the majority of the kids in hoodies will respond politely to similar treatment. And that’s exactly what happened here. It was kind of funny to watch this kid speak politely to me then scream something at the bus driver who promptly screamed back. In the end I managed to persuade Perry that bus drivers are intractable grumps at the best of times and that his/her dogs were currently standing in the coldest place in London while everyone argued. This seemed to win the argument and s/he left the bus and I finally got into the warm. And muttered to myself that I seemed to be cursed with delays and that goddamn it this ain’t funny anymore.
I nearly got away with it today. I got the whole day done and was heading home. I hopped off one train, zoomed to another platform and saw another train there. And I instantly knew that I was getting hit with delays again. My major clue was that the driver had no lights on in his train. My other clues were the passengers milling around in confusion and on the other side a train stopped just before entering the platform where it had no business stopping. I donned a purposeful look and swiftly marched up the platform. The passengers stepped back in awe at my obvious prowess with trains and may even have cheered gently as I entered the cab. Where I snuggled up to the heater and asked what was up.
It seems that the power had gone off, most likely something to do with the heavy snow we’ve had. I have no idea what goes on with that but I’ve noticed that whenever we get snow we lose power somewhere. Of course, correlation is not causation and it is equally possible that the run up to losing power somehow causes snow to fall but I’m not going to submit that thesis for consideration just yet. So we sat and twiddled our thumbs and played i-spy and chatted away. After a while the driver looked startled and asked where I’d actually come from. Not unreasonable as you don’t usually expect a colleague to suddenly appear at a station in the middle of nowhere unless they’ve been sulking in the back for some reason. I explained that I’d hopped over from a different line about five minutes previously.
‘Ah’ said the driver.
We carried on chatting and I began to wonder how long this was likely to go on for and whether it might be more useful to go and search out a bus. To try to guage the length of wait I enquired how long the power had been off.
‘About five minutes’.
‘Ah’, I said. And swiftly changed the subject. After a while the power was restored and we trundled on and I eventually made it home. Where I’m snuggled up next to a much better heater and where I’m writing out this warning.
I’m going to work tomorrow. There may be severe delays!