Friday, 13 February 2009

Close to You

This morning, I was standing on the reading my friend Gemma Weekes’ brilliant debut novel ‘Love Me’ on the tube (review to follow), when at Euston, suddenly piles and piles of people piled on. They pushed and shoved, trying desperately claw millimetres further into the carriage, begging for already packed-in sardine-commuters to push in further and move down the carriage. There was nowhere to go. A short woman ended up stood next to me, pressing into me. Usually this type of bodily closeness is completely uncomfortable and inappropriate, but on the tube, you just have to go with it. I had to accept that my butt was butt-kissing a businessman’s butt. I had to accept that no matter where I placed my hand on the rail, someone’s fingers would brush. You make do, suck it up and get on with it. Pressing into me was an angry-faced woman in her thirties, grimacing at being squashed in the busiest hour of the busiest day on the busiest network of trains in the country. The points of her boots was over my toes, she was leaning into me. I was in the middle of a tense section of the book and wanted to keep reading. I lifted the book close to my face, so close that my glasses were redundant and I carried on reading. This exchange followed:

‘Excuse me, can you get your book out of my face please?’
‘Your book. It’s too close to my face.’
‘It’s nowhere near your face.’
‘It is. It’s all I can see. I don’t like the cover, can you read it at some other time?’
‘I’m sorry but it’s not in your face and I wish to read my way through this uncomfortable journey.’
‘Look, sometimes, you just have to get on with it...’

WHAT? What? I HAVE to get on with it? She’s the one with face-book (geddit). I couldn’t believe it. I’m ashamed to say, I defied her and carried on reading, albeit with the pages practically brushing my nose in a new arena of closeness, so close that I could no longer decipher the text anymore. The commute is annoying, full of angry selfish people who don’t move down the carriage, leave their backpacks on, push into you, past you, through you, never say ‘excuse me’, cross their legs in the gangway creating no space to walk, fart, paint nails, eat kebabs, stare, pick their nose, have long loud conversations, listen to bad grime- it’s amazing isn’t it? All the country’s microcosmic filters all playing today nicely in a tiny carriage of doom and despair, like the black hole of Calcutta.

I got off the train and bought a Valentine’s card and joke-bawdy present for my betrothed. The American store manager was a ray of sunshine and joked with me about the bawdiness of the present and how it would be enjoyed and how she owned one and it was just a bit too close and a bit too familiar and she was too classically American-loud and overly talkative and I balked and retreated at her over-familiarity, I still had the rot and rage and repression of the tube leaking from my pores. I walked out of the shop and resolved that I should be nicer to people today even though it took me an hour to get from A to B this morning.

1 comment:

Jawatron said...

I normally use my long-sighted-ness to smack people in the face with my book on the tube. And im instigating the Japanese tradition of touching people up as much as possible when they're trapped on public transport.

That's your problem... you're only seeing the down sides.