My Mum always used to tell me not to speak to weirdos as I went out the door when I was a child. Sitting on the train on the way to London last weekend, talking to some random person opposite me it suddenly occurred: I am that weirdo my Mum warned me about!
Let me elaborate. I never take books or even magazines on trains. I'm not really sure why or when I stopped; I suppose I read so much, it's overkill. I hate iPods and personal stereos, so don't have music with me. I don't have a Gameboy or whatever their name is these days and I don't play card games like Solitaire as I don't know how (and I'm not interested, not disenfranchised, so please don't tell me how) and I am one hundred per cent allergic to ALL puzzles of the world, whether they're Sudoku, word searches, cross words or God forbid one of those little metal things that you have to separate! Agh.
I sometimes work on trains - ie. read scripts - but for the most part, I just sit there and let my brain go blank. It's one of the rare occasions I actually get to sit down without a PC in front of me or a baby yelling, "Mama, kiss? Kiss!" in my ear, so this can be nice. You usually find me in carriage D of any train: this is because I read an article by a physicist once who calculated that anyone sitting in carriage D is least likely to be affected by a crash, whether the train comes off the rails, is hit at the front or the back. I've no idea if this is true or not, but it makes me feel better about travelling through that infamous signal into Paddington so often.
So. If the train is quiet, I will just sit there, blank. It's bliss. However, if it's busy - most likely if someone sits next to me - I will talk to them. I can't help myself, it's a compulsion. Though people have moved out of the seat next to me, nine times out of ten they've talked back to me. About random stuff - some have been amazingly open about their families, partners, old schools, careers... You name it. For example:
- Once I met a German couple with a baby whom they nicknamed Faustus as a joke because he was the "devil incarnate" and wouldn't stop crying, but in Germany the deadline for registering babies is a lot shorter than in England so when their time was up they couldn't think of anything else, and he was still the devil, so they landed him with it for life.
- A 7"7 man managed to cram himself into a seat next to me once: he revealed he was a tree surgeon by day ("Guess you don't need a ladder?" I say rather lamely)and in CREATURE FEATURES as a sideline! That's right. Name a Bollywood or Brit Film with a monster in it and guaranteed it's him.
- I've met thousands of public school girls on their way to posh boarding schools, complete with hockey and lacrosse sticks poking out of the luggage rack, but the naughtiest one I met was an 18 year old from Derby who confessed to sleeping with both the rugby captain and the hockey captain - one male and one female - in the same night at the same party. Wowzers.
- I met the an executive from a well-known Juice company who told me all about the buy-one-get-one-free idea and how it works with companies and supermarkets which was interesting, but much more interesting was his reminiscing of his school days and staying at one friend's house that was full of cockcroaches and cats.
- I met a chap who lives oppostie the wreck of the Napoli at Branscombe Bay - he gave blow-by-blow accounts of everything they "salvaged", but then had to give back.
- I've met hundreds of PA's to various people whose names I recognise, but many more who claim to be the PA of someone I really do know or have met and I know they actually aren't, which I always find particularly interesting. There are ALOT of people on the Paddington train who are phantom workers at the BBC for example. One girl whom I spoke to for over an hour claimed to be Paul Ashton's line manager at The Writers' Room; unfortunately for her, I happen to know her boss, who is the line manager at a well-known insurance company. Still, I didn't let on and let her indulge her fantasy: why not?
Who have you met on the train? The weirder the better please...