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Over the Shoulder

July 12, 2009

One day in May I was travelling to Venice to meet up with my mother for a Very Important Birthday.  She had arranged for my sister to travel over from Paris, as well as for her own sister, my Auntie Didge, and her husband, Uncle Dodge to meet us there.  It was going to be a big jolly.

To get to Venice, I had planned on taking a bus to the station and then the train to the airport.  It started badly however, as on the bus I bumped into Mrs Blabalot, who, along with her awe-inspiring 15 year old daughter who cracks walnuts between her bare palms, plonked herself down next to me and started to rattle on.  She’s a very friendly soul and, as long as you smile and occasionally nod in agreement through the glazed expression that inevitably descends over anyone’s countenance if exposed to her for long enough, she seems quite happy to witter on in her own little world, oblivious to whether anyone is listening or not.  You just have to take care to dodge the little spit balls that come winging towards you from time to time.

Once at the station, I found my train and settled into a forward-facing window seat, i-podded myself up (volume not too high – must be considerate to those around us!) and was ready for the 30 minute ride to Schiphol airport.  The Dutch trains are a paragon of efficiency and comfort in comparison to UK trains -8 out of 10 of them arriving, in my experience, on time.  It is true to say, though, that I don’t take them terribly often.  Ask a Dutch person about their trains however,  and they will lament the awful delays and constant disruptions, comparing them unfavourably to their German counterparts.

Five minutes later, an announcement informed us that the train was going to be late and then, two minutes later another one told us that it was actually not going to be running at all and that we should all get off and pile onto the old chug-a-lug on the next platform, which was grubby and smelt of burgers and would be stopping at every station on the way.  Those of us going to Schiphol would have to change at Leiden, which I did, only to find that the sleek train I got onto for the second leg of my journey was the same one I had clambered out of back at the original point of departure!  Ho hum.  Never mind, I went into the somewhat crowded carriage and saw that there was a nook with a double seat not far from the glass wall near the entrance to the carriage.  One overweight businessman with his buttons popping was installed in the window seat, his equally overstuffed briefcase was in residence next to him on the vacant one.  He, of course, in the manner of all annoying business men on trains, was shouting into his mobile phone, all sarf Lundun with his chubby fingers and sweaty top lip.

Red rag to bull moment –  I can’t stand it when other passengers use up perfectly good seats for their bags instead of people.  After quickly scouting to check that there was no-one in more obvious need than me, I walked past all the people huddled around the door and the glass partition and stood in front of the man, patiently waiting for him to notice that the seat had a taker.  He caught my eye and I indicated that I wanted to sit down.  He briefly acknowledged me and I understood his nod to imply that he would move the bag just as soon as he was off the phone.  I wondered where he would put it as there was not much leg room and as I have already pointed out, he was no lightweight.  Perhaps I’d have to hold it on my lap for him while he did Important Schtuff.  Five minutes later and he was still bellowing into the phone and making no effort whatsoever to budge anything, so I leant over and interrupted him:

‘Excuse me, could you please move your bag, I’m waiting to sit down.’

I hoped his customer down the other end of the phone heard me and realised what an oaf he was.  Anyway, he huffed and tutted, put his call on hold, reached over to pick up the bag, popping a few more buttons as he did so and, rather surprisingly, stood up and shuffled out of the tight space with one of those funny bent knee walks you have to do on trains and coaches to avoid bumping into the wall that they have deliberately placed too close to the seats.

I must say I thought he adopted a rather ungracious attitude towards me, almost knocking me over as he squeezed past.  Never mind though, I had my seat!  I took out my mobile phone after a minute or two of boredom and started texting Husband.  It went something along the lines of:

“Fat English git got very arsey when I wanted to sit down where he’d parked his briefcase.  Tosser.  Should have offered him a doughnut, that’d have got him moving faster.”

Some time later, the train started to slow as it was approaching the airport.   As it drew into the station, I was suddenly aware of a presence very close behind me.  Before I had a chance to look round, an angry voice hissed in my ear:

“Nice message, by the way.”

Aarghh – from where he’d been standing he’d had a perfect view over my shoulder!  I felt my stomach flip.

Cool as a cucumber, however, without looking round, I started to type a new one:

“So what have you learnt from reading private messages not intended for you, donut-chaser?”

Then, and don’t ask me why, in my slightly shaken state, I sent the message to Husband.

I must admit I was a bit nervous standing amongst the cluster around the doors waiting to get off. The train seemed to take forever to come to a standstill but he didn’t hover near me or look me in the eye.  Nor did he follow me menacingly up the platform.

I know because I checked.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2009 10:54 pm

    love it. i suspect that even if he had wanted to chase you down the platform and done/said something unpleasant he would have been hard pressed to catch you given his great girth. tee hee!

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