The Platform Shuffle

Getting the train in the morning is now so utterly routine that it’s no longer anything worth getting excited about. I’ve always been fascinated by trains ever since I was a child. Not in the sense that I’d go trainspotting, but in the sense that I have an inquiring mind that likes to know how things work. Maybe a little bit autistic in the sense that I like to understand how humans try to make order out of chaos. Then I just like travelling in general anyway – I love seeing the world swooshing by and me being in a privileged position able to sit back and observe everyone.

So now I stand and wait at platform 3, as usual, awaiting the arrival of the 0832 to Charing Cross. It seems to be the least congested of all the rush hour trains, which is nice, because I hate having to battle other commuters for a space that a tinned sardine would not be impressed with if it had the joy of still being alive. I hate the psychological warfare that it involves – where people don’t look at each other, but are quite obviously weighing up the situation, and the possible empty seats, out of the corner of their eyes. Then the doors open and the charge begins. It’s not me. I like to stand back and be amused as the battle takes place. Then just get on anyway. Getting a seat really doesn’t bother me, though it seems to be the prized goal for everyone else.

Anyway – this morning, things were a little different. The 0832 was late. Not quite so unusual, but what was was the fact that a train was pulling into platform 1, heading for Charing Cross. Normally trains sail through platform 1 as that is the fast line. Only this train was stopping.

Quick as a flash, I knew exactly what had happened. In a brief moment of not paying attention, the line control had swapped the train to platform 1. It was definitely my train, only it was at the wrong platform. I took a glance at the departure board, and it confirmed my suspicion. My train had disappeared. I didn’t need any extra provocation.

I ran. I knew I had an advantage over everyone else as they hadn’t realised the situation yet. But if I strolled across, there was a risk I’d get caught behind hundreds of people all trying to get up the stairs, which would mean I’d miss the train. There was no choice.

So I ran through, chuckling away to myself that my smart thinking had got me ahead of the crowd. I think my speed probably alarmed people that something was amiss. And sure enough I blazed a trail; people started joining me.

In the end I made it safely, though the driver predictably decided to shut the doors quickly so he could make a sharp getaway. He certainly wasn’t going to wait for the dozens of people still on platform 3 to realise what had happened, most of whom were only just beginning to suspect something was wrong.

The doors shut, and off we went, stranding a lot of people. Well, they were stranded for 10 minutes longer. No great disaster. But it was nice for once to get one over all those who I battle with on a daily basis. Or rather, I pretend that I’m too cool to battle with on a daily basis.

Because it is war really. My strategy is just one of sour grapes, though give me half a chance and I’ll demonstrate my ruthless streak.

Either way, it made today’s train journey just a little less routine than normal.

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  1. My station to work is the last one at which there are still a couple of seats available on the train, about 6 a carriage. Boarding is somewhat like a manic yet orderly game of musical chairs.


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