Saturday, 9 July 2011

The road less travelled

I like travelling, always have. I love the packing, I love the anticipation, I love the journey to the car/station/airport and I love the waiting around for the traffic/plane/train. I love it all.

However, there is one thing I don't love, the other travellers.

Now sometimes, they cause no problem, they sit, quietly minding their own business, you see, I am not a chatty traveller. Crazy I know, I seem so chatty in real life and here. But part of me recognises that, as I take my seat, the person next to me is hoping I don't start any conversation. I know this, because that's typically what I think when I'm already seated and I see them coming down the aisle towards me.

"Oh, great," I'll think. "Here comes Chatty Chatterton. Don't sit next to me!"

At least, I hope they don't want to talk, because that avails me from feeling guilty about turning on my ipod and leafing through my magazine.

You see, socially, I'm LAZY.

I have enough friends, I think. What I need in my life is someone who fits in their seat and lets me comfortably scooch past them each time I have to pee or get something from the buffet car (generally wine or a bacon butty).

Of course, this rarely happens. Generally I have a talker, someone so desperate to share their facinating stories that I have to listen to them all the way from Wales to Bournemouth.

My Nana lives in South Wales. I live in the North East of England. On ocassion I need to travel between the two. On a train it takes a little over six hours, six long hours. Two hours to Manchester and then four to my destination... four hours on one train.

On one of these journeys I comfortablised (is that a word?) in my seat and took up my usual defense mechanism - pretending to cough manically to put off potential seat sharers.

And then I saw her. She caught my eye from half way down the aisle and indicated through a variety of hand gestures that if there was a seat next to me she would take it. I was panicked. I mean, it was too late to move and there were no more potential seat takers!

Suddenly she was there, squished in next to me on the double seat. Before we had even left Manchester I knew the following things about her:

1. Her cats' names (Emerson, Finkle, Grayson - he's bad - and Fisher)

2. Some problems she has with her sister (shallow and domineering) (married a Greek)
3. Concerns she has with her next door neighbour's frequency of shed use
4. How once she ate a fabulous restaurant in Edinburgh. I should go.
5. The real reason Viagra was invented (Don't ask)

After a while I decided that my neck hurt from craning to look at her as she talked, and also my head hurt from listening to her and her special stories. I kept telling myself to be compassionate and loving, but I felt like it was compassionate to have listened as long as I had, and plus I was loving my book and was keen to get back to it. So little by little I weaned myself away from her conversation. Eventually I was looking straight at the open page and just muttering "Really?" or "Wow. That's crazy!" every so often. Eventually she took the hint and left me alone. And then I felt super bad. Really super bad. So I tried to start her talking again. But she was done with me. She had nothing left to say. And that made it even worse, because now I was essentially begging for something I didn't want in the first place, and she was holding out. So I gave up and decided to snooze against the window.
After a while I started to stir and awoke to find she was telling me another story. From what I recall it was about a priest who took all of his clothes off and put on a wolf mask to wind up some Baptists. She claimed that it was a true story.

A week later, on the journey home, I firmly shoved my earphones and stared intently at my book at every station. And no-one sat next to me. They all knew; I was a woman who would not talk.

Either that or a serial killer.

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