“Everyone, step behind the yellow line,” came a shout from down the platform. “It’s for your own safety. The train is trying to leave.”
This was met by derisive laughter. There was no where to go. No where to step back to. Every inch of platform-space was filled with an impatient crowd of people who had just been ejected from their train, shoving against the tired commuters who had been waiting there for a train for more than half an hour by this point.
The platform was so full, there were still people stuck on the train. Unable to get off. They clung onto the frame above the doorway, rocking on their heels and swinging themselves in the void between train and platform, serene against the tirade of abusive that was being aimed at them.
“Get off the bloody train,” screamed a woman, hammering on the windows to get their attention.
The man inside looked up from his phone and waved at her.
“It can’t leave until you get off,” she screamed again, this time with hand gestures.
He looked back at down at his phone. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Guards in orange jackets squeezed their way up and down the platform, dogged by calls of “what’s going on? You’re not telling us anything!” everywhere they went.
“The train’s cancelled,” they would throw out at random intervals.
It was nearly seven o’clock.
I had to be at the next theatre on my list in 45 minutes.
As I was buffeted along by the movement of the crowd, I tried to focus my mind on the maths. It was a fifteen minute journey. Add another five minutes at the end for getting to the venue. 20 minutes. The train was going to take another ten minutes to get off this platform. At least. 30 minutes. The next train was four minutes away, but I couldn’t take that one. I needed the one after. 40 minutes. 40 minutes would work, as long as there weren’t any more delays.
A guard got on the train, chivvying off the last few hangers-on.
With a symphony of warning beeps, the doors closed.
Inside a man walked down the train.
“Where’s he going?” someone asked. “I thought the train wasn’t going to Enfield.”
A guard looked up from his phone. “He’s going the wrong way,” he muttered, quickly dialling a number. “The driver’s going to the wrong end of the train,” he muttered as everyone exploded into giggles.
Eventually the driver found the right end of the train, and removed it from the station.
A few minutes later, another train replaced it.
I had to plant my feet on the ground and pull of a near Matrix-level backbend to avoid getting swept onto it with the pure force of the people crowding on.
“I'm on,” shouted a man into his phone as his foot hit the get inside the door. “I'm on, I think I'm on.” He fell back onto the platform. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, going in for another attempt. ”I’m on!” he cried out triumphantly as the doors closed, sealing him in.
Except his jacket had bunched up and was not sticking out between the doors. A man left behind on the platform helpfully prodded it back in.
Now you're on the far side, in the middle block, right on the other end
Far side, middle block, I repeated. Ignoring the seat specifics
Oddly specific. I should have known better
No, row b, I said staring at the second row.
There aren't seat numbers? I asked.
No, you have to count