Monday morning and I’m sitting on the train feeling pretty damn pleased with myself: I’ve skipped breakfast because I’m on this crazy new diet thing where you can only eat eight hours a day so I’ve managed to catch an earlier train. I pull out my water bottle and take a big glug. Even though I can never remember how much I’m supposed to drink each day, I try to take on a much fluid as possible because that’s healthy, right? Except I’m drinking so fast I nearly choke. So I start to think what would happen if I really did begin to choke, I mean really dramatic, gut wrenching stuff? Well it would be pretty embarrassing for a start, no it would be very embarrassing, but what else? Would someone rush to my aid and slap my back or, I dunno, perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre or something? I look around at the empty faces and wonder if they’d even notice my face turning blue as I retched my way into New Street Station. I decide it’s unlikely: Angry Birds, or whatever it is these days, is probably way more appealing.
It’s a short journey so I don’t have too long to go before we’re pulling into New Street. I’m on a cross city line so, while most of the train empties out, there are just as many getting on. The platform is rammed with people waiting for their chance to change places.
In my carriage there are two queues coming from opposite directions and meeting at the doors. At the head of the opposite queue there’s a guy with one of those monster pushchairs, the sort that probably converts to a Porsche or something when the little tyke is old enough. His wife is just behind him pulling an equally huge suitcase with one hand and holding a fluffy pink teddy in the other. They’re already stressing about how they’re going to get off the train and I want to tell them that’s the easy part. Everyone behind them has the same impassive look on their faces, staring straight ahead like they’re not in the least bit concerned about how many precious minutes this couple’s going to take off their journey.
The doors open and the crowds on the platform swarm towards the doors. He’s struggling to get the pushchair off but no one helps him. Naturally I’m mildly outraged at this thinking, if only I wasn’t five people away. I’d help him, if only I was closer. I imagine myself as some kind of superhero flying over my fellow travellers and swooping down to save the day and help him off the train. He’d be unbelievably grateful and there’d be spontaneous applause from the other passengers. I could be called the Caped Commuter or the Commuter Kid or something. Anyway while all this is going on in my head he’s taken it upon himself to demand someone helps him and someone on the platform duly complies. My queue seizes the opportunity to squeeze past his wife as she grapples with the suitcase, teddy and the difficult step down. I am now just behind her but, despite my earlier outrage, I don’t help either. Thankfully it’s on wheels and she has arms like Bluto so she tugs it down onto the platform narrowly missing some woman’s foot. The woman is not too happy and makes a loud comment about people with too much baggage at this time of the day. Her voice trails off because I’ve already joined the human chain trying to make my way to the exit. The trouble is it’s one of several chains, all going in different directions – mayhem.
Finally I get upstairs and I’m on my way out. They’re doing a major refurbishment at the moment, so every morning I’m got my “new stuff” radar on as I speed walk to the barriers. Everything’s so white in this new look station, I feel the need to wear sunglasses at all times. For some reason state of the art planning doesn’t quite stretch to automatic ticket barriers so there’s yet another hold up while two hundred people funnel themselves into two small gaps either side of which sit listless guards who are more interested in talking to their mates, or looking at their nails than the tickets each frustrated passenger tries to push into their faces. At last I’m out and it’s a short walk across town to my next train so I get my skates on. I’ve got the walk timed to perfection. I can do it in six minutes flat, even less if I do the running/ walking thing.
When I get to Moor Street Station I notice the train that I usually miss is running late so if I rush I could just make it, however, I’m disappointed to see it’s the guard with a face like a smacked arse on the barriers. He always makes me take my pass out of its wallet & push it through the slot even though he knows it never works. For once he’s on my side & waves me through. Yes! The challenge is on.
The train is pulling into Platform Two but I have to cross over the bridge to get it. My competitive instincts kick in. I run up the stairs and take the bridge faster than Usain Bolt in high heels, then I’m down the other side jumping on the train just as the doors are closing behind me. Yay, I made it. I do a silent whoop: I have given myself an extra twelve minutes on my day. I am such a superhero. The Commuter Kid strikes again.