As the train entered the station, I got up, knowing fully what was to happen next. But this time I wasn’t having any of it. This time I was ready, ready to stand up for what was right, ready to fight for peace and order, for decency, for queen and country; ready – I tell you!
I took place in front of the sliding doors, buried my hands in my pockets and waited patiently for the inevitable. As the train came to a stop, I saw the people on the platform gathering in front of the doors, desperate to get on. A woman caught my attention. She was clutching her bag, her head down, looking miserable as if her entire life had been nothing but a waste and the realization burdened her with shame, I wavered, only for a second; and in that flickering second, I almost backed off…
The doors opened, slowly sliding apart. She was there: at the front of the pack, leading the assault, standing right in front of me, undoubtedly about to push me out of the way to grab my seat, unaware of what was to pass. I stood, refusing to move, my entire body as if made of stones: I was a statue she could not overcome. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally lifted up her head and looked at me, confused about why I wasn’t getting off the train.
I slowly leaned forward and stared at her, my eyes burying their way through hers. I had been practicing my Spanish non-stop for a week, making sure I got the pronunciation and the intonation right (I was ready I tell you!). And so, fists in my pockets, anger raging through every muscle on my face, I articulated every single syllable: “Por favor, dejar salir antes de entrar!” (Please let the passengers off the train first!).
Confused, as if no one had uttered such words to her before, and slightly scared perhaps, she shifted to the right. There wasn’t nearly enough room made for me to pass so I clarified: “Hay que dejar salir los pasajeros del train antes de entar el wagon!”
She finally got the message and actually moved out of the way. As I was walking passed her, I turned around and, though I’m not sure she understood sarcasm, thanked her with a reproachful “gracias”.
This was to be the beginning of a month long ritual. My opponents changed at every station; I faced men twice my size, business men, parents and even a famous actor that should remain nameless but I never flickered, never backed off, never wavered. As Jason Nesmith said: Never give up, never surrender!
I now understand why the London tube constantly broadcasts the same monochord announcements: “Passengers off the train first. Mind the gap; please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Mind the doors; please mind the closing doors”. Anyone who has ever lived in London will know how absolutely bonkers it drives commuters, once passed the very fleeting first few months when it actually amuses you, but it drills manners into your brains, drills behavioural patterns until those words are forever inked onto your soul and you find yourself acting in the appropriate manner without realising so.
I might be fighting a lost battle but I won’t surrender! By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the sons of Warvan…
Sir Alexander Dane, a.k.a. Doctor Lazarus on Galaxy Quest, a.k.a Alan Rickman, when realizing there is only four months left before Fairy Tales ends…