{11/12/2012}   Train “friends”

Having done my almost one-hour commute for 18 months, albeit not every day, I have finally realised the extent to which I am not only a creature of habit regarding where I sit on the train but that there are  a fair few people I see pretty much every time I catch my usual train and who I almost feel I know.

This revelation came yesterday morning.  I waited with the same group of three to four blokes (they are “blokes” not “men”), who are clearly friends, and a relative newcomer, a woman with long hair and a dark green coat.  I always sit in the last carriage, the third seat in by the window on the right.  This morning, however, long-hair, who had even arrived after me, took advantage of the blokes’ chivalry and got on the train first, with a choice of seats.  She took my seat.  I actually faltered for a split second in confusion over where to sit.  So I sat on the left side.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Then I got another shock as for the past couple of weeks the same bloke has got on at the next station and sat next to me.  Today, he could have sat in his usual seat, next to long-hair, but I felt strangely pleased that he loyally sat next to me.  Then it struck me as odd that we have never spoken, I have barely seen him, to the extent I wouldn’t recognise him if I saw him out of context , and that we probably never will speak.  Yet I find it fascinating that I know a stranger’s train routine.  He flips the little table down before sitting down, puts a bunch of keys on the table and then puts down his mobile, some tablets and a hot drink mug.  The train then leaves the station and I think he takes the tablet, though I’ve never seen him actually swallow it, and walks behind, probably to the bin, then returns and finally sits down.  Later on he might read the FT or just sit.  All he has seen me doing is write letters, which I have been doing every day of late in anticipation of Christmas card sending.

As for the other passengers who get on at my station and the next station (the two Folkestone stations), it really did dawn on me yesterday how familiar my fellow passengers are.  I won’t be on my usual train today and I wonder if pill man will notice.  Maybe long-hair will pinch my seat again and maybe he’ll sit next to her.

As for the group of blokes I see most days, they too sit at their regular seats, behind me and across the aisle.  I’ve “known” them a lot longer than pill man yet still we don’t ever acknowledge each other.  However, they and I will turn to see who’s standing next to them as we approach the platform and there is an almost smile of recognition, but I definitely wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s a full “hello” smile.  However, there is something oddly comforting about all these people and it would completely throw me if any of them ever spoke to me.


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