A commuter train is not the first place I’d choose for a spot of people watching. All those weary worker bees, heads seemingly dipped in prayer, looking at whatever device will take their mind off the stained upholstery they’re sitting on; it rarely makes for an interesting spectator sport. Unless it’s the day your carriage becomes the theatrical equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and you’re holding a golden ticket.
This week, I had VIP seats to some of the most glorious displays of human behaviour I’ve ever seen.
Like many people, I suspect (hope), I often make a quick visual sweep of the platform before I board the train, just to get a sense of the characters that are sharing my ride. This day was no different.
On my right stood a young girl in jeans and a flannel shirt I’d bet cost a lot of money to look that ‘worn’. On my left stood a man I’d describe as a lot older than me, but only because the birthday alerts keep getting sent to my memory’s junk mail folder; it still thinks I’m in my twenties (bless).
Together, we got on the train and sat in the vestibule area by the doors. I didn’t realise my trendy little flannel friend was on the phone until we sat down. She was talking so quietly I doubt an audio engineer skilled at recording praying mantis mating could hear her. But that soon changed.
I believe it was her rhythmically aggressive tone and furious gaze that tipped me off to the fracas she was embroiled in. Suddenly it wasn’t just her shirt that was distressed. A quick scan in my peripheral vision confirmed that the commuters on either side of me had twigged to the tiff brewing across from us as well.
Delighted to have picked the carriage screening the latest Netflix drama, I silently squealed, “grab your popcorn, folks, it’s ON!”
After a minute or so of different variations of Flannel Girl asking, “why didn’t you answer your phone?”, I couldn’t help but feel deflated at the predictable plot line. But, just as I was about to switch off and join my fellow worker bees at Swipe Club, in swept a whole lotta crazy from the next carriage. A twist so unexpected and dramatic that Flannel Girl suddenly lost the leading role and became a cameo (at best).
If I had to guess his stage name, it would have to be Man Under the Influence of Suspicious Substances* Who’s Passionately Interested in the Gaza Strip Conflict. Why? Because in the three loops he did onto the top level of our carriage and back underneath, he was having an enthralling conversation on the phone about that very issue – all punctuated with a series of spectacular lunges reminiscent of the inimitable (until now) Mick Jagger. His performance was electric, I was both spellbound and nervously trying to avoid eye contact.
He exited the carriage as flamboyantly as he arrived but the memory of his dramatic exploits stayed with me for the rest of the ride home.
Honestly, it’s the only way to travel.
*Not something I’d condone or recommend.