Friday, 10 July 2009

Last Train to Gaylord

Like many people, I have always experienced a romantic frisson when it comes to rail travel - so much so, in fact, that it sometimes spirals into full-blown sexual episodes. I was recently forced to revisit that particularly filthy crease in my subconscious when I took the train to visit my plastic surgeon in Harley Street; usually I take a taxi from Bristol, get them to wait outside for up to eight hours while I have the operation, then drive me back, but I realised this was costing me an entire month's income. So, this month, reluctantly, I made my way to the train station with a ticket and a stomach full of butterflies (just like when I used to look through the keyhole at my estranged wife Diana taking another glorious shit.)

Settling into my seat by the window, the old thrill of the rails came flooding back to me as the train pulled gently out into the countryside - a reverie ruined rather abruptly when a blind teenage girl sat down in the seat opposite me and appeared to be staring blankly at my face. I was about to flee to another carriage to avoid any accusations of inappropriate frottage, when she began to speak: "Excuse me madam, but I need to use the toilet and wondered if you'd be kind enough to help me find it?" For some reason, she had made the assumption that I was a helpful old woman.

I realise now that the best course of action would have been to admit straight away that I was a man and insist she seek more suitable assistance. However, what I actually did was to panic and, feeling morally obliged, put on my best woman's voice and happily accepted the young woman's plea for help. I hurriedly escorted her down the carriage and tried desperately to get away, but the toilet was one of those modern ones with a rotating curved door - she claimed not to understand the technology, and by now I was so far involved in my rare act of altruism that I agreed to remain in the cubicle whilst she performed her act. The door slowly closed with both of us inside.

Embarrassed by the loud splashing noises her bodily evacuations were making, the blind girl began to make small talk. "What are you going to London for?" she asked; thinking on my feet, I tried to imagine what an ageing woman could possibly want in the city. "Um, you know, dresses and...tampons. That sort of thing" I said, in a very convincing woman's voice.

It was at this point, however, that I became sickeningly aware that the train was pulling into a station. As it slowed to a halt, I could hear people getting on board on the other side of the door, and it was at this moment that fate decided to play its cruellest hand of all: either a careless elbow or a malicious finger had pushed the 'open door' button, and with a horrifying sense of inevitability the door began to rotate on its cruel axis, centimetre by centimetre, revealing to the boarding passengers what must have seemed like the most depraved scene that they had ever witnessed. Frantic to save everyone's blushes, I began to hammer my fist against the 'close door' button - but the perverted mechanics was obeying its own laws and insisted on opening the door all the way before beginning its agonizingly slow path back to where it came from. The look of repulsion on people's faces provoked me to attempt to explain myself, and to protect my blind companion from any further embarrassment I maintained my female persona. "THIS ISN'T WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!" I shrieked in the most high-pitched, feminine voice I could muster. After what seemed like an eternity, the door finally closed and sealed our shame back inside the cubicle. As the train pulled away from the station, I escorted the blind woman back to her seat whilst I struggled to hold back the tears.

I never made it to London. Filled with morbid self-loathing, I got off at Swindon, bought three litres of scrumpy, a copy of Nuts and a Bible, and spent a repentant night in a local park ruing my luck. Yet again, what should have been a perfectly pleasant day was reduced to a parade of shame.