When I over­hear meet­ings on trains, I just want to butt in

The Guardian - G2 - - News -

The train be­tween Lon­don and Leeds in the mid­dle of the day is a prime venue for meet­ings. Most of them are phone meet­ings: on a re­cent trip north, I was sat with two guys say­ing “Sorry, tun­nel” into their head­phones, and I found it quite easy not to in­ter­vene and just sat there, smirk­ing on the in­side.

On the way home, though, two young women op­po­site were hav­ing a real-life get-to­gether, start­ing – in that bond­ing way women do – with a dis­po­si­tion on how nice ab­sent Per­son A was. She’s re­ally nice. Ev­ery­one loves her. “She prob­a­bly isn’t that nice,” I wanted to add. “Peo­ple who ev­ery­one loves are al­ways play­ing some devil­ish game.” She is also re­ally gor­geous, to­tally beau­ti­ful, both par­ties present wished they looked like her. At this point I had to leave and check out the buf­fet car, oth­er­wise I would have said: “Don’t wish that! You both look great. If I took a pic­ture of you right now on a train, you would look back in 20 years and say: ‘I can’t be­lieve how great I looked.’”

When I got back with some BBQ Beef Hoola Hoops, one was say­ing to the other: “There are three num­bers here: 230, 285 and 310. Shall we just take one of them out?” I still had no idea of the na­ture of their busi­ness. One men­tioned Tesco and the other men­tioned sk­in­care wipes, but they could have been de­scrib­ing their main com­peti­tor, or their plan once they reached King’s Cross. Nev­er­the­less, plainly, some­one had to say: “There’s quite a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween those num­bers, don’t just take one out, maybe fig­ure out why there are three of them.” And since I was clos­est, it re­ally should have been me. I filled my face with Hoops. It was the only way not to talk. My de­sire to man­age peo­ple, de­spite never hav­ing been in charge of any­thing, is a mys­te­ri­ous and pow­er­ful thing.

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