‘How could you forget to get on the train?’ asked the keeper. ‘I can understand how you forgot to get off the train, but how were you standing on the platform waiting for another train to go back the other way, and the train came but you forgot to get on it?’
I had been on my way from Victoria to Clapham Junction. The keeper had rung to say he was popping in to let the dogs out and did I want them fed?
I was telling him no thanks, as I would be on the train to Guildford in a few minutes. But as I was sitting in my seat saying this, the train was pulling into Clapham Junction, the doors were opening to let passengers off, and then the train was moving away again.
In other words, in the time it took me to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got everything under control’, I was trapped on a non-stop train to East Croydon with nothing to do but listen to the worst ever train announcement: ‘If you see something that isn’t right, text British Transport Police and we’ll sort it. See it, say it, sort it!’
This esoteric message always makes me want to self-harm because I can see so many things that aren’t right I wouldn’t know where to begin such a text, much less end it.
Can you even send a text that long? How much would it cost? But of course, I spent the pointless journey from Clapham to East Croydon composing the text I wanted to send.
Broadly, I wanted to bring to the attention of the authorities pretty much everything I’d seen from the moment I got up that morning, from the unfixed potholes in the flooded roads, to the rude, horrible people everywhere, including those huge, loud, self-obsessed women pushing prams into train gaps while on the phone, not caring if their baby dies a horrific death on the track so long as they can tell their friend about the top they’ve just bought from TK Maxx.
None of that is right. And that’s before we get to the issue of the story in the news being about a man of 78 driven from his home for fighting off two intruders who were burgling his house. That’s not right. And nor are the poo bags dropped on the ground or hung from trees. I wish the primitive lifeforms who do such things nothing but ill. I hope there is such a thing as karma and they come back as fish choking to death in a stretch of the ocean full of poo bags.
But most of all, these smarmy security announcements on trains aren’t right. ‘If you see something that isn’t right…’ It’s a cheek, isn’t it?
The idea that the authorities are going to sort something that isn’t right because we are telling them about it, I would say, is a huge kick in the teeth, considering what really happens when you try to report something that isn’t right — either they point the finger at the person who is complaining, or they open a file then close it a day later due to lack of evidence.
If they are seriously suggesting they want us to report activity or individuals that might be terror-related, I say they need to get a grip and go out and find an ethnically balanced cross-section of terror suspects themselves. Don’t be asking us to do it.
Obviously, however, while composing such a text, I almost forgot to get off at East Croydon. I remembered at the last moment and then stood waiting on the opposite platform for the train to go back the other way. I called the keeper for a chat to pass the time, and while I was on the phone, somehow failed to get on it.
The train came, stopped short of where I was standing then moved off again. ‘Short train,’ said the guard when I asked. ‘Yes, that one’s always a short one,’ he mused, philosophically.
I waited again and a longer train came which I managed to get on. No sooner was I in my seat than the smarmy voice started again: ‘If you see something that isn’t right…’
The rain, I thought. The dismal buildings, the pointless rules, the monotony, the idea that we are all just going to put up with this until… For goodness sake, I told myself, stop it or you will never get off at Clapham Junction. So I stood by the door waiting.
I managed to get on to the train for Guildford. ‘If you see something that isn’t right…’ came the announcement.
I looked out the window, but a train had pulled up next to us and all I could see was the reflection staring back.