Last Safe Seat

There is no way I can be seen. It’s dark, a tight space and alone in the back corner of the last train carriage. There is only one way in, ahead of me. Behind me is the Conductor’s cabin and his door is locked. My bag sits on the seat next to me, eliminating any possibility of blocking my escape. It goes against my grain, stopping someone in need of a seat is utterly against everything I stand for, well, of some of the things I stand for. I stand for a lot of things, especially those things against humanity. We need to look after each other on this lonely planet spinning around in the same circle, each day.

Today, I have to think of self-preservation. This isn’t conducive to being a responsible public transport passenger. I know there are others to think of. Today, I strongly feel I must look after myself and I must be resilient. I’ve seen the outcome of those thinking of others when some think of themselves, and these are the very few on our planet, and today I join the ranks of those few.

It’s a dark and sombre place where I find myself. A safe space. A comfortable place and to my right is the window of the train. Nothing can see me, as I hide with a view of passing fields, homes and people standing on platforms. The gentle sway of the train comforts me, but I have decided I can’t let my guard down as I keep myself safe. It’s more about not letting my guard down when it is about protecting myself. I’m of an age where I am expected to take care of myself and a time when everyone is looking after themselves. We’re all too busy trying to get through the day.

I have to be brave, even though there is a smell of hot, sweaty suit pants emanating from the man sitting in front of me. It’s not as bad as the woman who eat a plate of eggy tuna on the train in the middle of the summer heat. It’s not as bad as the pretty girl who picked her nose on the way to London. It’s bearable, but I have to make it bearable as the alternative is not acceptable and I have to be brave.

The scratchy material of the train seat stings my fragile skin. The black stains merging into the seat fabric is somewhat disconcerting, but as I don’t know what they are, I try not to fixate on them. They look like black tare from the road, but who is to say what they are. It’s clear someone had a cheese sandwich here in the past few days or hours, one can never truly tell about these things.

The underneath of the tray table is something I will have to write to the Train operator about. The state of this dangerous health and safety offence, is exactly that, offensive. A congealed collection of drained fluids from multiple, unrecognisable sources. And of course, and why not, the obligatory pieces of discarded chewing gum. At least two of them have clear fingerprint impressions and with the right detective work and man-hours, the offenders could be placed in gaol for this offensive behaviour.

Today, I’m not wearing my headphones to block out the sounds of my fellow passengers’ incessant babble, as I have to keep an ear open for station announcements. This pain alone sends shivers throughout my skin, akin to the beating pain of a shin splint. Yet, sacrifices need to be undertaken for these strained circumstances.

The train conductor towers over me as he attempts to gain my attention, to inquire if I am “OK”, as he indelicately puts it. I’m sure my fellow passengers are eager to ascertain who the Conductor is talking to and the motivation behind my actions.

My only let down is not remembering to bring a blanket or some type of sheeting to place on the floor as I hide underneath the filthy tray table at the back of the last carriage of the train, travelling to work on this overly awkward Monday morning.

– Malcolm

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