The car windscreens this morning were heavy with water. The sun shone wanly. The trains seemed to sense in their steel skeletons that the world had tipped into autumn and that it was time to hunker down for a long cold snap.
They were wrong; it’s turned into a lovely day. For the London rail system this morning, though, it was like winter. I had to change my route to the emergency go-round-the-whole-city-the-other-way version that involves a variety of crowded and eccentrically arranged stations.
As I stood, crammed onto a thin tube platform, waiting for a train that would arrive at some unspecified future time, the woman standing jammed up against my back started to rail against the whole system. She started with the fact that the information boards were not working, coursed rapidly through to the fact that they’d chosen to apologise for this rather than the cranky network itself and crescendoed with a calling down of many bad things on the purveyors of public transport, their families and friends. Even their enemies may have been caught up in the crossfire, I’m not sure.
I was firstly irritated by the way that I was getting the full benefit of this woman’s own irritation. A trouble aired is a trouble shared, so thank you very much, lady, for adding to whatever irritation I was feeling on my own account. I also didn’t much care for the way she was giving me an unrequested sample of what it feels like to have a devil on your shoulder.
Finally, by virtue of its relentless unhappiness, her irritation managed to erase mine. How could I compete with her magnificent unhappiness? More to the point, why would I? Much as being stuck on a crowded tube is undesirable, it’s far more undesirable to spend my time being miserable about it. Either I do something about it (not right now), or I get on with it.
When I emerged, some time later, at the little used station that seems to exist only as an alternative for people who really want to be somewhere further down the road, the sun had warmed up the bricks and dried up the morning dew. That brilliantly slanting September sun followed me all the way to my destination.