As I prepare to alight from my train home each evening, I tend to grab an armful of discarded newspapers for my wife to use as bedding for her guinea pigs. It seems there is some point to “The Metro”, after all. I don’t need loads – just to walk up the carriage and grab a few off chairs is enough. Last night was no different.
As I approach the end of the carriage I spy a paper on the seat next to a middle-aged woman, who is reading a book. By this point I am already holding a few newspapers.
“Excuse me. Are you done with that?”
She looks at me, and sees the newspapers already in my arms. “Oh, yes, no problem. Take it.” She returns to her book, but keeps speaking. “What are you going to do with all those?”
“Oh, they’re for my wife’s guinea pigs.”
“What do they want with them?”
I check her expression carefully. She isn’t smiling – apparently it’s a genuine question. And yet she looks reasonably compos mentis.
Apparently I left my mouth’s autopilot in deadpan-sarcasm mode: “They like Sudoku”.
“Oh, OK” she says, not looking up. I leave the train.
I can only assume she’d had a really long day, and her mind was elsewhere. I like to think that sometime after the train left Derby but before it reached Leeds she looked up, and said to no-one in particular:
“Hang on, did he say … ?”