Wednesday, November 04, 2009

trains and tolerance

I've had bad luck with train companions lately. It's usually the case that, when someone sits in the carriage and cranks their headphones up to brain-damage levels, their thoughtlessness about the noise pollution is matched by a corresponding surliness, bordering on the suggestion of violence. Having suffered just such a companion last night - I boiled in silence - this morning I sat myself down and hoped for a peaceful commute.

At Hove, the noise pollutant boarded. I'd placed my bag, optimistically, on the empty seat beside me but readied myself to move it once I saw how many people were boarding the train. When someone arrived beside me I glanced up to spot a teenager on the verge of tipping over; hurrying to grab my seat and overloaded with a bag, a paper, a mirror, a drink, and several tubes containing glosses, creams and ointments. They tipped onto me as she sat down.

I retrieved them and held them out as the girl flopped into the seat, grinning apologetically. She leant forward, loosed her hair out of her pony tail and shook it, whipping my face as she did with a clutch of curls. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Seated at last, she poured her various belongings onto the fold down table, and began going through her bag, emptying further clutter - crisp wrappers, a mobile telephone - onto her lap. She turned and grinned again, conscious how disorganised she looked. From the bag she retrieved an iPod nano. I felt a familiar sense of dread.

The music, when it came, was, I think, Leona Lewis. It was cripplingly loud. Worthing, I thought. She'll get off at Worthing. She didn't.

What was odd, however, was that haphazard, clumsy, friendly way she carried herself. The big, apologetic smile, her inability to impose order over her spilling belongings, I found strangely endearing. In the end, having been gifted a noise-polluter to whom I wouldn't have felt self-conscious about asking to turn down the volume - I felt too fond of her to do so. Which is not to say that her music didn't annoy the hell out of me. It only goes to show I'm too tolerant.

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