Friday, February 04, 2005

musical chairs

My life rolls by without much in the way of conflict and then - suddenly - I am at war with a fellow commuter. Disturbing developments in what was previously a stress-free journey. I find that, after two years of sitting in my favoured seat on the Brighton-Chichester express, a fellow traveller (and one who clearly has less difficulty than me in getting out of bed in the morning) has decided that he too wishes to sit in the second seat on the right in the third carriage. I thought it was only me who had figured out that this is the best place to sit on the whole train but apparently I was wrong.

Monday: 7.48am. I climb aboard the train a minute or two before it pulls out of the station and find to my horror that my seat is taken. I sit, reluctantly, in the one in front and try to adapt to my temporary surroundings as best I can.
Tuesday: 10.40am. Hmm. I go in late today, so no problems. On the other hand, I worry, will this look like I have given up my seat - practically presented it to my adversary on a plate? No, I reassure myself, that was just a one off. Silly.
Wednesday: 7.46am. Situation is now back under control. I time my arrival at the station well. I am first aboard the train and straight into my appointed seat. Moments later, someone boards the train, walks past the first row of seats and makes as if to swing into mine. But aha! He finds me settled. Let's see how he likes that.
Thursday: 7.49am. Damn Damn Damn. I am up late and dawdle, catastrophically, in the newsagents, trying to decide between salt and vinegar hula hoops and salt and vinegar square crisps. When I board the train my seat is taken. Not just that, but I can't help but notice that my rival looks well settled, as if he has been there for at least five minutes. After yesterday's defeat, is he raising his game, I wonder?
Friday: 7.44am. I am on the platform before the train even pulls into the station. I position myself where I think the third carriage will stop but notice, incredulously, that my adversary does the same thing. Yet when the train settles against the platform and the passengers disembark I actually find myself politely gesturing him to board ahead of me. It is a moment's instinctive politeness and I suffer for it. He takes my seat.

What do you think? I know it would be cowardly for me to just give up, but should I take this as an opportunity to settle into a new routine? There are other seats, after all.

And yet... that seat is mine.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing more disturbing than an affront to well established and fairly pleasant routine commute. I would stick a Post It note on the back of the seat in front pointing out politely just whose seat that is. No wait, that would mean that you would have to be there before him. Well the only solution then has to be bloody murder.

I would turn up at Brighton station one morning with a full length ladder and perhaps some overalls, make it look as if you are off to decorate Chichester Cathedral or something. Then whilst on the platform and positioned next to the Chichester Seat Stealer (as he will now be known) in a Laurel and Hardy and latterly Chuckle Brothers visual gag pretend to hear your name from afar, swing around with ladder on shoulder knocking opponent hopefully in front of an incoming train causing a terrible and bloody end to his seat stealing ways.

BB said...

It was hard to do in the mornings, but in the evenings I'd always get the same seat at London Bridge for the dash back to Hove. Never counted carriages, but you had to stand about a foot to the left of the yellow "Mind the gap" before the final pillar under the roof on platform 12, then get the corner seat at the front/left of the carriage. I never had competition for that one, it's just that this slightly creepy old-ish guy with a 'Rail' weekly magazine, a nasal voice, and very short hair started sitting to my left and grinning at me. Time to relocate.

It's annoying to try to vary where you get on, because you're - in a sense - changing social scenes. I mean, you get little groups and some are very quiet, while some are accustomed to eating cheese Doritos (and wiping the foul orange powder on the seat or their socks), or to drinking cans of Stella on Friday evenings and bellowing into mobile phones.

Ever give nicknames to fellow commuters? There's a Charles de Gaulle, a Mark (Man Utd) Hughes, a Pinstripe Man, and even a Monkey Man on my route.

So sad :-)

Tim Rutherford-Johnson said...

Punch him. In the face.

Anonymous said...

Ask him if he's ever seen the film 'The Lady Vanishes'. If not he will be totally unsuspecting when you immobilise him, swathe him in bandages, and lodge him in the luggage rack as a mystery 'patient' being transported to see a specialist in, erm, Chichester. Vic

Anonymous said...

That's a brilliant image. How about letting him have your seat but sitting in front of him every day for a week with your walkman on really really loud. He'll probably decide to use a different carraige from then on.

BB said...

Sorry for totally hijacking the comments! Well he popped up again. Always turns up just at the last minute so I could never sit in front of him. Do have the iPod on quite loud but nobody complains (though this did happen once - was playing one of my own songs too).

There was a good tip in Viz a while back: "avoid people talking to you by pretending to be drunk". I wonder...