The train journey (from Edinburgh) was interesting. I’d gotten on ready to claim my rightful place but I eventually had to move and give up my window and table seat.
I was sitting with two other passengers: a woman and a man. At first I thought they’d arrived together because he was mid-conversation when I approached the table. I caught the end of his sentence about being torn between two places: Lancaster and I can’t remember the other place. It was clearly an emotional topic. I just assumed this conversation must have begun before they’d boarded the train (because we’d all got on at the same stop).
He was speaking so gruffly and erratically and the woman still hadn’t spoken. I realised at that point, she probably didn’t know him. *sighs inwardly* I was hoping for a quiet journey. He got up to let me sit by the window, then sat back down beside me and continued his one-sided conversation. It was fragmented and sort of made sense but I wasn’t paying too much attention. It felt like he was speaking his thoughts old loud, but it was awkward because we were all sitting around a table in really close proximity to each other. In my mind, I kept wondering: is he talking to us or… at us…or to himself…?
I thought it couldn’t get any more weird but we then descended onto new levels. He began asking me questions. Normally, I don’t mind engaging in friendly chit-chat, but there’s usually a nice opening like ‘hey’ or some remark about the weather or something neutral to get the ball rolling. I don’t know if he was drunk (I couldn’t smell any alcohol) or whether he just had an eccentric personality but his line of questioning made me uncomfortable and it seemed it made the lady in front of me uncomfortable as well because she quickly came to my rescue and asked him to stop.
I’d been caught off guard. I was trying to formulate a polite way to tell him to stop. But in that moment where my brain was trying to process what was happening and also think of an appropriate response: polite but firm, I just mumbled answers. I wanted to make sure I didn’t over react. So, I was in awe at how quickly she came to my aid. Then after, she asked me if I was ok, and I mouthed that I was.
I sat there and contemplated moving. I was wedged in. He was sitting beside me and the table (and the other lady) were in front of me. If I wanted to move, I’d have to engage with him again. The journey was three hours long and we were less than 20 minutes in. I could sit there and just ignore his ramblings or I could move. A younger me would have stayed, too embarrassed to move or to offend anyone else and just suffer silently .
I moved. I deserve the right to travel in peace. Plus, it was 2 in the afternoon and there were barely any other passengers so it didn’t make any sense to sit in what was essentially an empty carriage with bad company.
I’m thankful for that woman and how quickly she shut him down. I think sometimes, it takes someone on the outside looking in to realise that something isn’t right. So, I’m really, really grateful.