My now usual early Monday morning commute started well. My back has been feeling much better over the weekend. I’d been able to get down the gym for the first time in a week, and had a personal training session with my weightlifting coach on Sunday where I’d lifted up to a very pleasing 50kg Snatches and 75kg Clean and Jerks, without any significant pain. Yes I could “feel” my back, but it was just a dull ache, and I wasn’t limited by it.
I’d also managed 2 undisturbed night’s sleep in a row, whereas previously I’d woken up every night last week with sporadic back pains. I have been trying the tennis ball technique to DIY massage, as recommended by several commentators (thank you!) and whilst a generally unpleasant experience, I’m sure it helps.
So I woke up 5 mins before the alarm this morning at 5:40 feeling quite refreshed and awake. I’ve done this trip several times now, and the routine is settling in so it was no drama to get up and be ready to go, 5 minutes before the taxi turned up to take me to the train station, at 6:15.
Everything was going swimmingly: the taxi was on time; there were no dramas on the 10 min ride to Stockport train station; there was no queue at the coffee stall; there were plenty of free Metro papers there; there was room to sit down in the waiting room; it wasn’t as cold as the forecast last night predicted and the train was on time. Excellent! I was in a good mood, well as good as you can be at 06:30 on a Monday morning about to embark on a 200 mile, 4 hour commute to work.
The 6:39 train was suitably quiet when it arrived, in fact there were only 3 people already ensconced in the carriage I got into. Booking my tickets last week, I always reserve a seat anyway, even though it’s slightly unnecessary, for the trip down anyway (the trip back on Friday is a lot busier). I like to book a seat as I have a preference for a rear facing table seat on the aisle. Rear facing as I consider that to be safer if the train crashes; a table seat so I can work on the laptop (e.g. write a blog post, like I’m doing with this one) and an aisle seat so I can get to my bag and coat freely without having to struggle past someone.
Imagine my annoyance then, when I discover that of the 3 people already sat in the carriage, one of them is in my seat! There are nearly 60 seats on the carriage, 16 of which are table seats. 15 table seats are free and the one occupied is the seat I have reserved. To make matters worse, he’s put his coat over the back of the seat, so hiding the ticket that shows the seat reservation (it’s an old fashioned train with cardboard “Reserved” notices manually stuck on each reserved seat).
So now I’m torn. Do I take the moral high ground and challenge the guy to reveal the reserved notice under his jacket, risking an issue if indeed there isn’t one, although I have the backup of my own reservation ticket in my pocket? OR do I sit somewhere else? A quick scan of the carriage reveals that there are only a dozen other seats reserved, and there are 2 other table aisle seats available. I decide to take the practical approach and simply sit elsewhere. Honestly, it grates though, it’s the principle of the thing damn it!
The ticket collector comes by, the interloper hasn’t got a ticket and asks for a day return to Crewe. That’s just 15 minutes away! When he gets up and leaves at Crewe, he picks up his jacket, and there underneath, revealed for all to see, my seat reservation ticket springs up! I sit in my seat and silently try to sooth my irritation.
The train is still quiet and I decide not to move to my seat. Trying to play the game, I had actually chosen a window table seat. You see the opposite aisle seat has a reserved ticket on it from Crewe, and if someone sat there, the chances are I’d have the whole trip without facing someone, meaning I could stretch my legs out the whole journey. A grey haired man in his 60’s gets on the train and it looks like he’s going to take the aisle seat opposite me. Excellent, this is all going to plan. He smiles nicely at me, shifts along, bypassing the aisle seat and sitting straight down directly opposite in the window seat and promptly puts his foot on my toe!
There ensues a few moments of foot hockey as we both try to vie for as much leg room as possible, without of course looking like we’re competing (that wouldn’t be very British now would it?!?). He then promptly closes his eyes and starts to nod off.
In the words of that most famous of TV grumps, Victor Meldrew: I don’t believe it! There are no more than 10 other people in the entire carriage. There are loads of other seats free, including some windowed table seats. This guy doesn’t even need a table seat, he has no laptop, no paper, no notes to work on, he’s just sleeping. WTF did he decide to sit across from me and impinge on my leg room for the next 3 hours!?! My early morning good mood has now completely dissipated. I am officially grumpy!