Tuesday 3 November 2015

Thoughts In A TPE

Leeds makes me anxious. Leeds stresses me out.

There are so many people there, waiting, crowding around. Their heads finely attuned to the slightest noise of the tannoy. Eyes fixed on LCD screens. They shift as a wave, swaying through the station, merging and splitting. 

I'm on platform 16a. The last platform. The busy platform. Always, always busy. The trains to Manchester leave from here, and the trains to Huddersfield, and the train to Liverpool, and people crowd along the platform edge, watching. The 17:44 to Manchester passes through and whisks a load of them up, squeezing them on board, pushing them up against one another, but there are always more. 

I'm on the 18:09. By six o'clock the platform is full. Eyes peering into the distance hopefully. I've taken a punt, moved to the far end of the platform in the hope that my reserved seat will be there. I hope there's no one in it. I hope it will be relaxed. 

More people. There was an "incident" earlier in the day, something involving the emergency services, something that delayed trains all afternoon. The network is trying to recover. The people are bunched in tight groups instead of spread neatly. They're short tempered and tired. They're unhappy. They want to go home. 

18:02. A bunch of Virgin Trains employees appear behind me, in red, chirpy, over excitable. Day finished and now heading home. I take it as a good sign, that they know which end first class will be at - I reserved a first class seat in the hope that would be less stressful. 

They're wrong. 18:04 and the train appears. It's full. It's already full and now it's passing through the platform and I have to run down to first class. No point I getting on board any earlier; it's too full for me to push my way through. I squeeze on with everyone else, people with standard tickets who've just found a space to stand in the doorway, and I push through them. "Excuse me... Excuse me. Sorry." Heading for that first class compartment. As I get closer to the button I feel their hatred towards me grow. 

Even first class is full. Even in here, the compartment where all you get for your extra tenner is an antimacassar and a coffee, even here people are standing. 
One person in particular is sitting. She's sitting in my seat. She clutches a square box from M&S to her. 

Should I ask her to move? I mean, she is a woman. I'm supposed to give up my seat to her. But I'm going all the way to Liverpool, and I've walked twelve miles today, and I reserved that damn seat. 

"Excuse me," I say. "That's actually my seat. Sorry."

She gets up without protest. No verbal protest, anyway. She takes up position next to me, still clutching her box, and pulls out a copy of I Am Malala to ensure I know she's actually a really nice person and I'm a selfish twat. 

I don't need the extra stress. I slide into my seat full of guilt and shame. Leeds. Leeds is always stressful. 


Andrew Bowden said...

She may be a woman but you had a reserved seat? What's the problem? If she had been pregnant/ill/disabled, that's potentially different. Or if the reservations hasn't been put out. But otherwise there is little she could do that makes her more eligible for that seat. Why beat yourself up about it?

Women across this land fought for equality and rightly so. And equality means you're just as entitled to that reserved seat as anyone else.

Neil said...

I got a scowl for evicting someone from my reserved seat today. What's changed? Why are people not apologetic that they sat where they shouldn't have, instead they think you're petty for wanting to sit where you booked to sit? (Particularly now you can choose your specific seat on Virgin.)