Sssh! for Joe’s sake
Every train has at least one irritating loudmouth and Justin nearly strikes a blow for decency
this time to his wife. He tells her train is delayed. It’s not. He tells her he’s just leaving Glasgow. We aren’t, we’ve just pulled out of Crewe. He tells her he loves her. I don’t believe him. People are looking at each other with awkward disbelief. I have to say something, but what? What’s the intervention? ‘I’m sorry mate, I don’t think you are a nice person, and everyone here is trying to get on with their day’? No, we’re British, and we don’t get involved.
Train rules say you can only complain if someone is being loud on the phone if it’s the quiet coach. It’s not the quiet coach. He makes another call. He begins to speak in a Belfast accent. The woman across from me stifles a giggle. This is weird. He’s so far just used a pretty standard North West accent. He’s now sounding like he’s lived on the Falls Road all his life. He’s talking to a woman. We know it’s not his wife. He’s whispering sweet nothings, which frankly isn’t that sexy in his cod Belfast twang. Imagine being chatted up by the late Revd Ian Paisley.
The situation takes a darker and weirder turn. He says bye to her and takes another call. He bellows into the phone again, back in his previous voice. ‘Hello, Joe.’ Is he sacking him now?
Is this the moment. I feel a bit sick. No, he doesn’t say anything about sacking him. He tells him his figures were a bit low, but he’s sure they’ll be back up next quarter. He invites him to a golf day next week and wishes him all the best. He even asks after his wife. This man is heartless. My heart sinks.
If you haven’t got anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Most of us have at some point been given this advice; I’m now old and weary enough to add the caveat – unless the person you are dealing with is a nincompoop of galactic proportions. I’m going to say something. Maybe I’ll just ask him to keep it a bit quieter. The woman opposite sees my move and smiles encouragingly. Whatever I do won’t make an impact to Joe, but it might just make Bellowing Man realise we all hate him. I’m going to say something, on behalf of Joe, the carriage and myself. For every boss that’s been horrible to anyone. To every wife that’s been lied to. For every train company wrongly accused of being late (maybe they don’t need me to stand up for them on reflection).
I stand. I gird myself. I walk over. He looks up. He’s a big man. Dressed in clothes that cost too much for the effect they give stretched across his barrel chest. I see drool in the corner of his mouth. I cough. He looks up. This is the moment I make a stand. A flicker of delight dances across his duplicitous piggy eyes. ‘Justin! I loved your show last week in Darwen – can I have a selfie?’
I smile for the photo and skulk back to my seat, avoiding the glances from my fellow passengers.
ABOVE: ‘I’m on the train.’ Yes, we know, we can all hear you