Category Archives: Malcolm

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

Stop That Pigeon

Circling me with its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, it draws closer. Diseased, and more annoying than as a restless six year old craving attention. Surrounded by an air of innocence, but I know better. I know.

Oh, why are these vermin attracted to me? Can they smell fear? What do they secretly know? A businessman standing next to me juts out his briefcase to shoo it away.

Relieved, the sudden arrival of the train frightens away nature’s beast. As the carriage doors open, a crowd surges forward and we stampede inside. My cares about that fiend vanishes just as quickly. The doors close, a muffled announcement crackles over the speakers and we commence our journey.

Relaxing into the gentle sway of the train, the clickity-click persuades me into a warmth of slumber. Breaking through the caressing peace comes a subtle, yet distinctive call. A call of an indignant, coo. At first it is subtle and distant, without a care in the world. It draws closer.

In the corner of my eye, a woman rises ever so carefully, so not to raise alarm. In front, a man looks up from his screen, but doesn’t look down. He put his screen down and looks towards the woman. His face says a thousand words.

Gently, I turn my head. At first, the only picture in my vision is the woman and a group of strangers staring at the same point. I focus my gaze. There. On the headrest of the fourth row aisle seat is, the pigeon.

Before I can drop to the floor, the eye of the pigeon stares directly at me. Why, me? ‘What have I done to you’, my thoughts run wild.

An explosion of screams breaks the silence. A sudden powerful forward upward motion of newspapers, briefcases, hats, phones and discarded fast food wrappers litter the once empty expanse above the our heads. Frightful arms and legs lash out, punching and kicking the air as the invasion of swooshing feathers from an invisible source cuts through the mayhem.

Through the airborne debris, I hear a woman, her screams from her bright red lipstick lips, I see her, clutching at her hair, ragged and disarrayed, whilst tears stream from her distorted face. A man clings to the window as he attempts to climb onto the luggage rack, slamming his battered briefcase into the carriage window, swinging whatever his in his hand at his attacker. A younger woman cowers by the carriage door, forlorn, defeated in her battle for survival. What feels like hours of battle against the warring pigeon, the train stops to pick up more passengers.

The doors open. A collective of battered and beaten survivors, my fellow passengers, stampede onto the platform. Suckered by the onslaught of escaping passengers, airborne debris litters the platform. Warnings of ‘run for your life’, echo throughout the station. Stunned onlookers watch as our collective come to a stop, calm down and turn our attention to our war zone.

The inside of the carriage settles into a litter of wrappers and newspapers, as the pigeon stands at the carriage door, cooing. Cooing! Looking innocent and vulnerable, the pigeon alights the train. Cooing.

With its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, the pigeon disappears into the crowd.

– Malcolm

Summer Tuna

Is she seriously going to sit there on this overcrowded train, outside thirty-two degrees celsius searing summer heat, no air-conditioning to save us from roasting in this poorly-cushioned oven whilst screaming children vicariously express their inner-demon, and she thinks it’s alright to devour that mound of smelly tuna and boiled egg? And with a plastic fork!

Is there enough mayonnaise?

Sitting there, shoveling fork pile after fork pile of stinking tuna into her overarching gob. My gut is wrenching. My nose attempts to cave-in, to shield itself from the agonising stench. The gall of her to look at me, as though I’ve infringed upon her sensibilities.

I feel sorry for the little train table jutting out from the seat in front of her, there is crusty breadcrumb litter from the offensive feast. Her, onboard picnic staining the Formica laminate, crumbs attaching themselves to the polyester seat coverings and the window filling with stains from stray offshoots of tuna flakes. When did consuming a meal on a train become such an invasion of the senses?

Standing at the edge of the station platform in the correct position, waiting for the train to position itself in its correct stopping position to allow the carriage door to stop directly in front of me, has become as natural as the sun shining. Then, one day, balding and eye-glasses wearing round man barrels himself towards me, hoping to intimidate me out of my platform position. I don’t think so. I have been standing in this exact position for years and no new plank will force me to move. Recently, he has taken to stretching and moving about whilst standing next to me.

“You’re not the first business suit to attempt intimidation with your stupid acrobatics”, I thought to myself. I shot him a look to let him know I won’t be moved.

The responsibility of alighting the train first means moving swiftly into the aisle and towards the centre of the carriage to find the first available seat. Unfortunately, Summer holidays means more passengers on the 17:46 train, limiting seats. Being first to board is a blessing, but today it’s been condemnation. Yes, I am grateful I located a seat, but not next to little Miss tuna-mouth.

And now I am sprayed with tuna oil, bread crumbs and little bits of lettuce leaf. Somehow, having lettuce leaf on an egg-tuna gives it a life of sophistication. It might be served in a fancy looking box from the local, but it stinks like any other.

And now I’m stuck in this wretched seat for the next forty-five minutes, feeling the pain of being the first on board at my platform to find a seat, here. Oh, how I wish the train would derail and we could all be mixed up like a cocktail shaker, having me land in a new seat, next to, no one.

But dreams are free.

Thank goodness I have a new bottle of Daz and disinfectant at home, I’m straight for the washing machine as soon as I walk in the door.

Ugh!

– Malcolm.

Millennial Nose Picker

She’s picking her nose! That’s right, she. My peripheral vision never fails me, this time I wish it had.

The young woman in the pretty floral dress next to me behaves like a Millennial; her right-hand swiping through a blue and white paged document on her laptop screen, switching focus with her thumb on her left-hand over stretching her mobile-phone screen, tapping out a message to someone elsewhere in the world.

A Millennial female picking her nose. Have I missed something about the new, cool. Somehow she multitasked rummaging around the inner sanctum of her right nostril whilst handling her devices.

The next forty-five minutes of my Monday morning journey into the city would be plagued with the avoidance of inadvertently touching her arm, the seat armrest or anything to do with the Millennial nose picker.

The carriage jolted. A collective moment of movement, yet no one seemed bothered. Another woman touched her hair, moving it away from her face. A man touched the centre of his reading glasses. Everyone continued reading their newspaper or book. Some looked out the window basking in the clean morning sunshine. Yet, only I were displaying a bead of sweat on my forehead, culminating from the rage of panic contained within.

She smiled at me. She wants me to know everything is going to be ok, the jolt from the carriage is over, the surprise of such a shock has passed. This is not why I’m sweating. This is not why I find myself in a flux of despair.

Where did the contents of your nose disappear to? Why haven’t you wiped your hands clean? How come no one else is horrified by such a public display of indecent behaviour? I’m engulfed with a burning need to stand on my seat to invoke a national debate., but I fear my head will bump the overhead luggage rack.

Oh, thank God! Here is my station. Time to get out of here. I have to touch the button on the door to open it. What if one of her nose picking Millennium have touched the button? I’m stuck.

– Malcolm