Having given up my company car recently in exchange for cash money every month I have taken to using the train to travel to head office once-or-so a month, and very pleasant it is too, and quicker than driving, and cheaper, so everyone wins then.
Its been yonks since I used the train before these recent episodes and it intrigued me a bit to notice that on the train ticket you were given a coach (carriage) and a seat number, the inference being that there was a seat especially waiting for you on that train at that time of day, indeed the ticket said “seat reservation”, how nice.
The first time after yonks that I used the train I had wondered why my seat number 26 had an “A” prefix, “seat 26A” it said but after boarding and finding seat 26A vacant and awaiting my arse, I realised that the “A” was for “Aisle”, it was an aisle seat, as opposed to seat 27 next to it which was a “W” seat (window), good stuff this isn’t it, you do realise that train geeks all over the land will be masturbating over stuff like this, I’m just sorry that I can’t tell them what the trains name was or what type it was other than it was long and sort of a deep blue colour.
So on that first journey I’m stood in the aisle and I’m looking at the little scrolling display signs above each seat and I’m impressed that it tells me that seat 26A was to be occupied on the Leeds to Birmingham sector and all seems to be well with the world, I have my seat, the seat was expecting me, the seat can even tell others that its waiting specifically for me to get on at Leeds to fill it so that no-one else who boards at, say, Newcastle will nick my seat off me – this is good, this is how technology should be.
And it worked on the return journey too, and it worked just fine on the journey back down there last Monday and on one of those journeys when all was fine in the world I wondered, just for a moment, what I would do if I found some ignorant bas’tad sat in my seat on one of those journeys, what would I do, would I be very English and not do anything or would I show him my ticket and exclaim “I’m sorry old chap but you appear to be occupying the seat that this train thinks is specifically mine, now scarper…”
Well, on Friday, on the way back from Birmingham, I got to find out just what I would do in those circumstances…
4.30pm on a Bank Holiday Friday is not going to be a quiet time to travel on a train is it, even I knew that and so the packed platform at Birmingham’s New Street Station was no surprise actually, but have no fear, for I had a ticket, with a seat number and everything…
The train pulled alongside the platform, I was on Coach C, Coach A passed by, then B, then another Coach with no electronic sign on it, but there was Coach D just behind it so with a power of deduction that I have honed carefully by watching endless loops of CSI Miami episodes I decided that Coach C must be the one in between B and D, I’m good at things like that, its the little things that get you through this life.
Hundreds of people were trying to board Coach C, it seemed like the whole world was booked onto that particular coach, but fear not, for I had a ticket, and a seat number too…
Everyone was asking everyone else, “Is this Coach C ?” it was like the worlds greatest mystery, akin to “Is the Turin Shroud just a gravy stain on an old tablecloth ?” or “Exactly which part of the Nevada desert did they film the moon landings on ?”, “Is this Coach C ?” was asked of me even more times than “Hello, are you Rick Stein ?” (Google him, its not f’kin me, ok ?)
Not to worry, I had a ticket, yes,you know, and a seat number, its worth saying it again.
I had seat 8A, and as we already know (because we were all paying attention further back weren’t we ?), seat 8A means that its seat number 8 and its an aisle seat – yes ?
There was no f’kin seat 8A.
There was a seat 8W, that is there was a seat numbered 8 but it was a window seat, the seat next to 8W was 9A, which wasn’t my seat, my seat was 8A, there was no f’kin seat 8A, its worth saying again.
I pushed and shoved my way up the carriage, lots of people were pushing and shoving their way up and down the carriage looking for seats that didn’t exist, “Is this Coach C ?” they were all asking each other, that and “Are you Rick Stein ?”, “No I’m f’kin not Rick Stein, is this Coach C though ?”
The train started to move off, I resigned myself to the fact that I had a ticket for a seat that did not exist so I went back down to the end of the carriage, placed my bags on the baggage rack and leaned against it, it was ok, someone had put a soft bag on there so I leaned on that and crushed whatever was in it – then I noticed that I was stood right in front of where I should be sat – I was standing right in front of seat 8, except of course this seat 8 was a window seat.
I checked my ticket again, no, it definitely said 8A, not 8W, should I tell the middle aged woman sitting in 8W that she had my seat and hope that she didn’t have a ticket with 8W printed on it ?
I checked my ticket again, just in case the printing on it had changed since the last time I checked it, nope, definitely said 8A, Coach C, “Is this Coach C ?” I asked a young lady who was also leaning against the baggage rack, “Yes” she confirmed, “Are you Rick Stein ?”, “No I’m f’kin not” I confirmed.
I stared at the woman sitting in what should have been my seat, should I tell her or not…
“All the tickets are mixed up love”, it was a rather large asian lady in sari dress and a give-away Bradford accent sat to my left.
“There isn’t even a seat with my ticket number on it” I showed her
“This isn’t my seat either” she said, “I dont know who’s it is but I’m not moving, by the way…”
“No I’m not f’kin Rick Stein”
Just then a rather camp young man in a floppy flat cap made his way down the carriage and stopped at the rather large Asian lady, “You’re sat in my seat” he proclaimed in a passable imitation of Charles Hawtry.
The rather large Asian lady simply shrugged her shoulders and said something back to him in her native (or her parents native) tongue, he tried to explain to her again that she was sat in his seat and once again she shrugged her shoulders and then stared out of the window, he flounced off down the carriage and spent the rest of the journey standing glaring at her from twenty yards away, she looked back at me and laughed, “Works every time” she whispered in her broad Bradford accent, the crafty cow, why didn’t I try that.