Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Guest post by Andrew Evans: The Benefit of the Doubt

There are a few truths  – according to movies, at least. Aliens are allergic to earth, the good guy always gets the girl, and there is good in everyone. But this is real life, not Hollywood.

In reality we'd be wiped out by aliens like Mexicans under a Trump presidency (I don't care what anybody says about him, Donald is a great: he's the perfect foil for cheap jokes that age badly. Just like his hairpiece.)

Future POTUS Trump disproves the good guy gets the girl trope too, with his beautiful former model and athlete wife, and genetically astonishing daughter. How is she half Trump?

But enough Donald-bashing. After all, this is What I saw on the tube today, not Who I couldn't avoid on the internet. So, to our last point: there is good in everyone – is it true?

Last week I saw a lady who gets on my morning train. Well, I see her all the time, obviously – at least a few days a week for the past couple of years – but last week I noticed something about her. She's pregnant and she was wearing a 'Baby on board' badge. But I realised she's been wearing it for the past two years.

Surely she’s not wearing the badge dishonestly, duping her fellow commuters into giving up their seat for her. That would be outrageous, taking advantage of others for her own gain. No, I must be mistaken. Perhaps it was a different badge. Or perhaps she was pregnant, had a baby, and was immediately pregnant again. She’s productive in a 1950s Catholic way.

Yes, that must be it. She’s had a baby, and got pregnant again. She’s not a bad person, there’s good in everyone, it’s the cynic in me that’s the problem. The only thing is… she’s the same size as she’s always been, I’m sure of it. There’s no ballooning, no deflation (clearly I've never had kids) no glowing, no morning sickness (it's a 7am train). Does this mean she's faking it to get a seat?

No, Hollywood wins out this time. Even though statistically improbable and medically worrying, I'll have to give her the benefit of the doubt – she must have given birth, then given in to her husband. She's the world champion chain smoker of childbirth. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Saturday Afternoon Outside Sainsbury’s

It’s raining and I have a buggy and no coat. I wait for Mrs TubeToday in the covered trolley bay outside my local Sainsbury’s. It’s very busy. People buy shitloads of food.

The trolley bay is busy too. Trolley boys work like beavers to make sure there are enough shopping trolleys for the floods of customers filling the supermarket.

Trolley boys are fascinating if you watch them.  

Trolley boys are fun to watch if you’re bored.

If you’re waiting outside a supermarket and trying to save your phone battery, trolley people are mildly interesting to observe.

There are loads of them working today and they’re all soaked. Don’t let an Indian summer catch you boys, it’s still October, in England.  They do a good job though the four of them. There’s older head trolley boy guy, young-dumb-and-full-of-even-more-dumb blond guys number one and two, and a roadie-looking one with tattoos and a ponytail.  I watch them for 10 minutes and the bay slowly fills up. Older head trolley boy guy says that after one last big sweep they’ll be good for an hour or so. They all seem happy with that.

Then the roadie one meets a friend. He’s an older gentleman with grey hair and is wearing really blue jeans, a white t-shirt with extra short sleeves and Asics trainers. He also has a tattoo on his shoulder. Older gentleman doesn’t waste time exchanging pleasantries.

“Do you have season four of muffled eavesdropping failure TV series?”

Whatever the series he’s talking about roadie trolley boy doesn’t have it and in fact has only seen the first three episodes. Asics man is disappointed but happy that he’s so far ahead of his young friend on such an important show.

He’s telling roadie how great it is and that, in fact, he wouldn’t even mind starting it all over again when his wife arrives. She’s a small woman and is pushing a very large trolley. She says a very short hello to roadie and heads towards the supermarket.

The atmosphere has changed. TV talk is over and without a thanks, goodbye, or let me know if you want to borrow season 2, the husband follows his wife into the supermarket leaving roadie trolley boy alone looking out into the rain thinking about one last big sweep.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Space invading

After a rare and tiring day in London, I’m finally on the Tube, on my way home.  All I want to do is stare into space but a large woman quickly invades it. She's large and standing in the corner of the carriage and my staring space is not all she’s invading.
She’s in her twenties and is reading Stylist. She’s holding the magazine, full of style and lifestyle advice, in her left hand. Her right hand is mostly up her nose.
She attacks both nostrils. Right nostril. Left nostril. A little deeper. Twist. Back to the right one. It’s a testament to the Stylist editorial team that this reader has completely forgotten where she is.
She keeps rooting. Like a good Londoner, her snot is using all available space. I’m disgusted yet transfixed. She stops, gives a final twist, and performs an ultra-fast pull out. The offender has joined us, on the tip of her finger. What now?
She’s still reading the fucking magazine but now rolls the nasal mucus between her fingers. She rolls in a kittenish manner, playing with her prey. Proud of it.
It’s between her thumb and her forefinger now. The rolling action gathers pace. She’s almost ready to finish. Faster again. The thumb is working its magic – rolling, rolling, rolling, almost there… and release. It’s dropped on the floor, another ball of snot to join the grub and the filth.
She gives rubs her nose and turns the page.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

When the stars align

It takes four minutes to walk from my house to the bus station (I have a new commute). I leave at the same time most mornings and mostly walk past/alongside the same people. There's the woman with the fat black dog and bag of fat black dog shit. There’s the woman with the limp. And, of course, there’s the man in a suit on a push scooter.

The lady with the dog, I like. She seems friendly and I like dogs. I’ve actually come close to saying good morning to her. I usually meet her by the bridge with the pretty vista. Then, if the bus is a little late, I see her tie fat dog to railing, and go into the station shop to buy a paper. The Independent I think but it might just be i. Her routine pleases me but I worry the dog is old.

The lady with the limp, I see less often, maybe three mornings a week. She is overweight and wears a big dark fleece. I have no idea where she goes but it’s the wrong direction. Everything else is the other way. Unless she’s going home, after a night-shift.

The man on the scooter I can’t explain. He’s just one of those guys; a right quirky bastard. He dresses like he’s in middle management. Something formal. Insurance or commercial banking I reckon, an office manager maybe. I hear him before I see him. Him and his scooter. Scooting down to the train like a dick. Breaking the adult vow of morning silence with childish noise. I’ve never seen his face but I imagine he smirks as he scoots.

And then the stars aligned. It was like some kind of commuter solstice. For the first time, the four of us were all together. And it was wonderful.

I was yet to reach the bridge. The woman with the limp was approaching. I was on the outside, by the road, and she was on the inside, by the trees. Like normal.

And then the faint rolling of rubber wheels appeared in the distance. Getting closer and closer. The woman limped and the man scooted towards me, from opposite directions.

And then the woman and her fat dog appeared. Approaching the bridge – right on cue.

The scooter got closer. I glanced at the kerb. Way too steep for a jump off. We had him.

He reached the back of me just as I passed the lady with the limp. As she passed he scooted closer to me but again I was just reaching the woman with the dog. I could here him stop, start and stop again.

That will teach you I thought. You and your scooter. At your age. And then he sped passed me. But we were practically at the station by then.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Giant White Basket

I miss a tube due to an overcrowded platform. I'm at the edge of the platform and would have squeezed in but a French trio want to travel together so wait for the next train, blocking my route and giving the boarded passengers an extra inch of space for their £400 a month tickets.

The next train arrives 45 seconds later. Already annoyed that I have been set back by almost a minute I am further irritated when I see a space I had spotted is in fact filled by a giant white basket.

In the unlikely event of me being shopping for white baskets in London during rush hour I am fully sure that instead of dragging said giant white basket through thousands of shoppers, tourists and commuters I would find the nearest pub, possibly Match Bar or that place across from Debenhams that I always forget the name of, and have three beers and a bowl of chips and wait for everything to calm down again. Anyone who wouldn't do likewise is simply uncivilised in my opinion, and an idiot.

Adjusting quickly to the basket disappointment I find room alongside the yellow hand pole on the right-hand-side of the train. A man is asleep in the corner seat and when I stand a certain way his resting leg is nestled right between my standing ones - with touching. He looks quite tough and the possibility of him being offended by our intertwining limbs is real, I make every effort to adjust my stance but leg space is premium.

Squeezed between me and the door are the French three from the platform. Two girls and one guy. One girl is pretty, wears a hat and has a lip piercing. She doesn't say much. The other two natter away as if there aren't another 820 people in the carriage. He is dark haired, is in his early twenties and has typical Gallic features. He's wearing very skinny black jeans, a Mac and battered Vans. The other girl, who seems older than the others, looks like a prostitute.

Back to him. He has dreadful fingers. Red marks and missing bits of skin surround his finger nail cuticle area. He nibbles at them constantly, not in an embarrassed, fidgety way but in an almost urbane one, like he's smoking a Gitane or tuning a trombone.

And so it is, the model, the musician and the whore are crushed by the door and I'm playing footsie with a possible goon-for-hire in the corner. I'm thinking my usual rammed-tube thoughts, unemployment, West Cork, Australia, and they're chatting away like they don't have a care in the world. They probably enjoy crowds, the young.

They speak constantly, about what I don't know. I have no French. He mentions Seven Seesters so I assume they're visiting an exhibition of some sort in Seven Sisters, or an orgy.

We arrive at Kings Cross. Mother tube usually sheds a few of her litter here so I'm confident that soon I'll be able to free myself from my tryst with Sleeping Beauty.

A woman, short and a little frumpy with her hair tied back too tightly, picks up the giant white basket. It reaches from her thighs to her throat. She moves from the centre of the aisle in my direction.

As she approaches me I move as far over to the other side and kind of squash up against a man in a suit to allow her room to pass. Internally I sigh and bitch and moan as I do this but I also afford her a polite smile as she passes. She doesn't respond.

Now her only obstacle from tube to platform is the French. They are chatting as before. The man is facing the woman with the giant white basket. He sees that she needs to pass. He must know the doors are going to close. He doesn't move. He stands firm. He stares at the woman and her basket. This lasts for a two tenses seconds.

The sleeping ruffian has woken up and is smirking with his friend (also rough) at the impasse before him. Everybody else in this part of the carraige stares.

What a prick is my first instinct. Obviously. But then I think, this type of thing must happen in cities like New York, Moscow, Rome & Paris all the time. Cultures where less of an emphasis is based on the British idea of politeness. I, afterall, think this woman is a total idiot for even considering carrying a giant white basket on the tube and would love to tell her so so maybe he's right and we're wrong, how else will the morons learn? He is wrong though, and a knob.

The woman blinks, lets out a small sigh and goes for it. She simply barges through him. Giant white basket first. And with that she's gone. Off the tube. The Frenchman doesn't react and casually goes back to his conversation.

The rough guy in the corner gives his friend another smirk and our eyes meet. He knows our legs have been touching I think.

"Mind the closing doors" the voice announces.