Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tilting the Train

Looking at my watch I notice that I have just missed the 5.10 train. Of all days, I am wet through standing on the Summerville platform, the wind howling along the tracks all the way to the coast.  I am alone, except for an old drunk swearing into his tattered mac; most probably his anger rising from an empty swig of a papered bottle.
    5.25pm and my pacing begins. Except now the station is filling with people for the Stirling line. The drunk has disappeared replaced by tired white-collar workers. I walk along the edge, close to the tracks, my head down as I pass the newly arrived commuters. Most have fingers on the pulse of their mobile phones or there’s one guy, a good looking Colin Firth- type, talking to his beloved; throwing his head back now and again, laughing as if he is happy. I imagine him going home to a talk blonde, a woman of impeccable stature and means, re-heating a lamb curry on the stove. Lucky her! Since Marcus left, my meals are made by Weight Watchers. I usually throw the packet in the microwave, sometimes adding some grated cheese or added peas and broccoli. That ABC program Checkout is right, they do look like emaciated meals when they come out. Usually I’m too tired to cook after a long day at Martin Sawyers. Oh yes, the notorious criminal lawyer who represents the bad John Does of this world, especially when they're trying to avoid illuminated cell blocks at night. One of the John Does gives me a wink when he comes into the office. How can that be bad? I don’t mind the attention, the eye-candy.
   Finally the 5.30pm arrives, offloading people for the inner-city car parks or for those heading to the Oxford Street bars and cafes.  My quiet contemplation is interrupted. A woman standing beside me yells and points towards the middle carriage of the train. A man runs to the driver, screaming. Tens of people are milling beside the middle carriage and I can hear the shouting above my earphones.
   I take a few photographs of what is happening. A young man who was ready to leave the train has caught his foot in the gap between the train and platform. He’s just sitting there. There’s panic in the air, and people yelling, ‘Don’t let the train leave!’
   In seconds, the train driver arrives with an assistant. They try to lift the man up from underneath his armpits, but they can’t budge him. The train crew methodically call to several passengers to assist, waving them over and pointing towards the windows of the carriage. A rather tall man is standing next to me, conducting the scene.  ‘I’ve seen this sort of thing before in Singapore,’ he says. ‘Best way is to use soap. Get some soap!’ he shouts.
   ‘I want to know what’s going on. What is he saying?’ I raise my head above the melee of people gathered near the carriage, but see little.
   ‘He’s asking them to stand alongside, to push their weight away from the man, but I can’t see that working.’
   ‘What are they doing now?’
   ‘The driver’s asking everyone to get off.’
   I move away and take more photos. Just as well, the know-all’s constant yelling is beyond favour and subsequently I find a space further along the platform and use my iphone on zoom. This is such an incredible moment. It’s as if there is one combined understanding to free this man. No one is arguing, and with quick decisive action about fifty people including bystanders and rail staff physically rock the train. One of the staff lowers his arm to the count of three, 'One, two, three, push,’ he orders.
   The train tilts and moves from its suspension; manpower force holding it for a few seconds.
   The man frees his leg.
   We all clamber back onto the train.
   We pull away from the platform.
   The tall fellow has further things to say to me as I find one remaining seat.
   ‘I thought it was always a bit of a joke “to mind the gap”, but I think we all will from now on,’ he laughs, leaning into his own reverie.

2nd Draft
Inspiration taken from a true story. 


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