The train sat at the station for 10 minutes before we heard anything.
“Is there a doctor on board the train please!? If there is a doctor aboard the train, please could they make their way to the buffet car, please?”
It sounded so serious, I considered pretending – especially when it became apparent there was no actual doctor on the 18.33 from Paddington. The member of staff rattled past a few minutes later and was told by a keen young man behind me that although he wasn’t a doctor, ‘he did have some first-aid training.’
Whoever this courageous beaver was, everyone was most reassured to see him rubbing the back of the ailing passenger as they puked into the toilet at the end of the carriage.
The puking man was helped from the train to sit against the palisade fence of the station and to puke some more onto the lose macadam. The keen young man and the assistant train deputy management executive took turns to lay embarrassed napkins over the vomit at the victim’s side.
An ambulance had been called, we were reassured. The train continued to wait. Paramedics came and asked questions while more napkins saved us from seeing what had been inside the man.
Bored, I wondered to an unobtrusive vantage point to hear him confess to having eaten a ‘chicken sandwich’ and, ‘a bag of crisps’.
I’m no expert, but the chicken sandwich seemed guiliter than the crisps.
But worse was to come.
It emerged that the man was actually called Derrick, and he WAS NOT a passenger, he was THE TRAIN MANAGER!
Alas, Derrick’s totemic status proved too powerful for us to go on: the train was evacuated that we might all stand alongside Derrick on the platform. The deputy management executive assstant conversed theatrically with her colleagues, and the now empty train was taken to a quiet siding and put out of its misery.
At this point I should confess to being approximately 9 units of alcohol to the good.
And so when the deputy assisant train information and buffet dispensary assisant walked for the third time to hover near the ailing Derrick and his growing coterire of emergency staff, I lost my temper and pointed out how preposterous the situation was. I was asked by the flabbergasted dispensary assistant train manager’s ancilliary walking unit, whether, ‘O my god, are you being serious?’
I agreed, that yes; I was indeed being serious, and thank fuck this wasn’t a real crisis. I explained that whilst I felt some sympathy for Derrick, it seemed a little unnecessary for us all to leave the train and stand alongside him AND WATCH HIM HAVE HIS STOMACH CONTENTS VEILED BY PAPER FROM THE BUFFET CAR COUNTER-TOP NAPKIN DISPENSING UNIT (luckily I shouted that last bit in my head, but you can see where this is going).
So horrified by my evident heaterlessness, the assistant deputy ancilliary dispensation walking operative was reduced to tutting and huffing at my awfullness. A fellow traveller, also so moved by my heartlessness, pointed out that, ‘actually mate (he was antipodeaen) it was the train manager?’ Perhaps in Australia the vomit of minor officials is a delicacy? Who knows.
I think that had I been .5 of a unit closer to the good, I would have shouted what was on my mind, at all concerned. The following transcript should be taken under advisement:
“Are you fucking kidding? You think this is a crisis? Let me describe a crisis: How about the mother of two children I just left on a train platform not disimilar to this, whose husband has terminal cancer and who is still managing to keep going, despite the financial and psychological burden of losing the man she loves? You think Derrick’s habit of eating past their sell by date chicken sandwiches is a good enough reason for her to shut everything down? I’ll call and let her know! Shall we all just GIVE THE FUCK UP because Derrick can’t keep his snout out of the discount food bin? YOU THINK THIS IS A CRISIS? DOUBLE FUCK YOU, LADY, IF MY 62.50 RETURN PLUS 15.50 UPGRADE BECAUSE I MISSED THE SUPER OFF-PEAK TRAIN DOESN’T ENTITLE ME TO BE ANNOYED MY SERVICE WAS CANCELLED BECAUSE OF A FUCKING TUMMY UPSET”
Meanwhile, the apocalypse ground on. The tannoy recording told us we were IN FACT being delayed by disruption to an earlier service. Derrick’s chicken sandwich, apparently forming part of some sacrament (Those crazy Aussies!)
The electronic bulletin board (brought in to replace a human in the late 90s) was so beside itself at Derrick’s plight, it had resorted to flashing ascii characters at us all, babbling in tongues and serving only to heighten the sense of a society in freefall.
Eventually, the next train came. I got on. I planned this all out. I sucked down another couple of units and disembarked at my alloted station without further incident. I got into my usual cab and managed a grunt to Chris, my regular driver.
We’d turned off the main road before I asked how he was feeling (Chris was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and was now ‘one down’ so to speak.)
“Well, I’ve got it in the other ball now – but they ain’t takin’ it out yet ‘cos they gotta check out all me Testosterone and Oestregen levels.”
“Oh Chris, I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“S’OK, I am a bit cut up though. Me Mum died this mornin’ at her hospice. She had a load of cancer. They called me on the school run.”
“Oh Christ, you couldn’t be there?”
“Well, I saw ‘er last week and she looked so awful, I didn’t wanna see her again.”
Death, it seems, affects us all differently.
Chicken sandwiches, too.
My paracetomol and I should now like to apologize to the train assistant, my cab driver, my friends and Australians everywhere.
Names have been changed.
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