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Do we all remember stock? How some stuff happened that wasn’t supposed to happen? Yeah, it’s a fairly common thing around trains. It shouldn’t be because theoretically it’s all planned out and every eventuality covered. That’s why we have timetables and rulebooks and procedural manuals after all. But sometimes we like to go a little freelance. Imagine it, all those people working on the railway. The drivers, the station staff, the managers, the maintenance staff, the signallers…hundreds of us all constrained by tight operational boundaries. It’s no wonder that somebody occasionally kicks over the traces and decides to go off-roading.

One person who very rarely throws his hands up and goes his own way is the line controller. When they pick the guy they want to be in charge they often look for steadfastness, love of order, inability to think creatively and that sort of thing. Then they pay him handsomely to keep on thinking like that. The position of Fat Controller is not one for poets and artists. It’s a tunnel-vision kinda job.

Yesterday, I was waiting for a train. This often happens in my job. Actually I might sit down and list the ways in which I wait for trains one day. Might run to two blogs though. Anyways, I was standing on the platform waiting for a train and thinking how happy the driver would be to see me. I’d come off an earlier train and had my meal break and was now supposed to travel three stations on to take over another train. And seeing as this train was calling at all stations and seeing as how we were both going to the same place I figured I might as well do him a favour and wait where I was and ride my own train up there. And if the other driver wanted to go home from there I could just drive it up to where I was supposed to take over and everyone would be happy. Or at least, we’d all be happy if my train turned up.

Another driver wandered past and went to the opposite platform. We looked at our watches and looked at the sky and glanced down the track and there were no trains. He wondered if things were running late and I questioned whether we’d had a shut down. He proferred defective train and I countered with unexpected alien landing. None of our guesses could be proven however as no train came up the line bringing news. I got bored and wandered off to poke a manager into life.

We have nifty tools. The niftiest of these tools is the big spanner. It’s over a metre long which is pretty good for a spanner. If you ever see orange jackets wandering around the track see if you can spot one swinging a big spanner. They’re really cool. I know where one has been left and forgotten about and if I could work out a way to smuggle it out I’d steal it faster than a kitten steals hearts. I’m sorry, but when it comes to big spanners my morality goes all askew. They’re really nifty. Possibly if I had a very long coat…

Sorry, I got sidetracked there. Another of the nifty tools we have tells a person where their train is. And according to my manager my train was apparently two trains. This happens sometimes. We call it reformation. I’ll go over it another time. We discussed the options and decided I should just jump on the nearest version. And as that was approaching the station I scooted out to the platform again. And right enough, in came a train with my number on it. And then it went out the other side without stopping. I stood and waved forlornly as it went. It was all I could think to do. Then I gazed around me looking for some sort of teleportation device which would put me ahead of the train again. We really need one of those.

I scratched my head for a bit and tried to work out how the world worked and then I had a flash of inspiration. It is always better to report the fuckups oneself! So I raced back to the manager’s office and told him that my train had left without me. I feel this is better than some other manager phoning him from a few stations up to enquire where the hell his driver is.

My manager scratched his head for a bit. Then he asked a few important questions like “Was it definitely supposed to stop here?”. I whipped out my timetable and we double-checked. Yup, sposed to stop, it’s for all stations and now it’s just skipped three. For reasons best known to himself the Fat Controller had decided to run things in freeform. The manager scratched his head, shrugged and phoned the manager up at the other station and said it would be best if he sent one of his spare drivers down to the platform fairly imminently. Which is an excellent idea only the other manager didn’t have any spare drivers. My manager hung up and shrugged again. I was impressed at how much he wasn’t bothered by this very strange situation. It’s not often a driver goes from in front of their train to behind it so fast. I like to think his level of bemusement matched mine and he was so befuddled by the whole thing that he couldn’t do other than scratch his head and shrug. I dunno, maybe he’s just jaded.

The only thing to be done was to have my train hang about in the platform until I got there. I travelled up the other (slower) line to my pick-up point and then zipped across the platform to where my train was. Along with an unimpressed driver who I think had been told to suddenly nonstop a bunch of stations to make up time only to get to his end point and find no relief driver waiting for him. Poor thing. But he can rest easy. I’m never, ever going to do anyone a favour ever again!

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