Every morning I catch the train to work. I know exactly where to stand so that when the train stops I’ll be right in front of a door.
If there’s one thing we British know about, it’s queuing. We could do it as an Olympic sport – it would have the most orderly warm-ups ever. We love it! It is the epitome of good manners, polite behaviour, and order. It is Good and Right and Proper.
But train platforms don’t really lend themselves to queuing, and that makes us uncomfortable on a deep, almost subconscious level. There’s no marked place to stand; no way to distinguish who is “first”. It’s a free-for-all. The only reason it works is because we all know the rules, engraved into our DNA.
But it only takes one. A group of Brits waiting for a train is only one moron away from complete anarchy. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been stood waiting patiently for an hour – there’s really nothing to stop some spotty halfwit pushing right in front of you just as the train arrives.
And because we’re British, no-one complains. That would be petty. The best we can do is get so angry that we nearly say something. Or, if you’re the deranged-psychopath sort, you might even resort to tutting.
Instead, we just use our really piercing stare to bore into the back of their head (because that will show them!) and then fume about it for the rest of the day.
Anyway … back to my morning commute.
Each morning I stand at my spot and wait for the train to arrive. I normally wait for about fifteen minutes.
One minute before the train arrives, my nemesis totters up the platform. She must be sixty if she’s a day. She’s five-foot-nothing of prune-faced misery; Osteoporosis in a floral skirt. She has the look of one who has chosen not to retire, just because she enjoys the pain and misery she can inflict on others in the office every day. If Mrs Pepperpot were diagnosed with lung cancer and became a criminal mastermind and manufacturer of crystal-meth, she’d look like this.
Remember my not-very-funny short story about a gunfight with an evil nun? I didn’t base it on her, but I know who I’d cast in the screenplay.
She walks past and around everyone who has been waiting; everyone who has been trying to queue without making it obvious. We know there’s no queue … but there is, really. There’s no formal demarcation, but we’ve mutually agreed on one all the same. With perfect, evil timing, she skips the queue, halting in front of me as the train arrives. And I stand by the edge of the platform, so I am forced to step backwards or suffer a faceful of blue-rinse. The doors open, she jumps on first, and grabs the best seat. Her handbag apparently demands a seat of its own.
It’s infuriating … but I’m British, so I only nearly say something.
This has gone on for weeks. For a while I just thought I was being paranoid. I mean: she never made any real acknowledgement of my existence (other than stepping around me). Perhaps she’s just absent minded?
But then, last week, as she pushed in front of me as the train arrived … she turned round, looked me up and down, then directly in the eye … and sneered.
There was no way it could be misinterpreted. She couldn’t have made it more obvious if she’d spat on my boots or flipped me a gnarled, bony finger. She sneered, adjusted her grip on her handbag as she did so. I recognised it instantly as the classic Ninjitsu combat-handbag attack grip – as favoured by many infamous old lady assassins, like Rosa Klebb or Auntie Mabel from Come Outside.
God knows what’s in that handbag. I’ll bet there’s poison-tipped knitting needles and cyanide Parma Violets.
It was a shock to realise that this animosity wasn’t imagined; she really does hate me. Her aggression was a warning shot. In terms of international politics, our nations have devolved from smiles and limp-wristed handshakes at embassy dinners to increased military activity at the border and warheads buffed and polished.
So … I have a nemesis.
It’s difficult to know what to think about this. I mean: repeated contact with a malicious, evil entity is mentally draining. It’s like sharing a train with the Eye of Sauron. But then, if she really is a bond-villain, living in a hollowed-out volcano and laughing evilly whilst stroking her pussy (I mean her cat – minds out of the gutter, people) then that makes me the secret agent, doesn’t it? That’s quite cool! I must be ever-vigilant against henchmen, laser-equipped satellites, and being dropped into piranha tanks.
Still not convinced? Well, there’s something else she does which I need to tell you about … because it’s disgusting and I’ll enjoy conveying the imagery. It is nothing short of a psychological pre-emptive strike.
Occasionally she’ll arrive at the platform slightly earlier … with a plus one. Like all super-villains, she has a bit of eye-candy, who presumably spends his days tanning his perfect body on the deck of the luxury yacht, or standing in the background during her SPECTRE meetings, supplying the nibbles. He’s of a similar age and build, looks like John Major, and wears trousers that belt up around his nipples.
Her bodyguard/chauffeur/gigolo/fancy-man/husband escorts her to her spot right in my personal space … and then they spend the remaining 90 seconds before the train arrives french-kissing.
And not just kissing. There’s moaning, and slobbering, and sound effects which convey the notion of rather too much exchanged fluids. There’s heavy-petting. Everyone else on the platform is under no illusion about what they spent all last night doing. Our imaginations are supplying the extra imagery, however disturbing and unwanted those images may be.
Any intention to defend my spot is now gone. I must retreat, or suffer becoming 33% of a pensioner-themed threesome. They’re kissing so aggressively that even though we’re fully clothed, I worry I may get pregnant. Not only have I lost my place at the front of the queue, I’ve also lost my appetite for breakfast.
They disengage as the train arrives, and spend a few moments working out which teeth should be returned to which mouth. Then he walks back towards the exit … and she jumps on the train and nabs the best seat again.