What a week, had to be in Scotland for a 10:30am meeting on Monday. Thought id take the sensible option and opted for the train…left home at 5:30am bleary eyed and desperately trying to shake the hangover acquired on Sunday…why do I do this to myself? I’d promised myself I wouldn’t drink.
But Sunday dinner with the new girlfriend’s parents had not been the happy affair I’d imagined.
It turned into a scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as I dodged the verbal bullets regarding their precious daughters well being and desperately sought the sanctuary of a bunker. I glanced around me as I tried to establish some kind of beachhead expecting to see the bodies of those unfortunate souls pushed on to this frontline before me by the angelic looking general at my side. Thankfully the bodies weren’t there but I knew I wasn’t the first to be pinned down in this dining room by a verbal barrage. I took the only option available and slowly built a barricade of empty wine bottles between the enemy and myself to shield me from the attack. …It didn’t work and what’s worse, in an unusual touch of drunken bravado I challenged her old man to a round of golf next Sunday… I’m beginning to think my brain hates me.
Anyway left the house at 5:30, the black cab was on time, miracles do happen, I was looking good in my suit and wearing very dark sunglasses in the hope that they would somehow reduce my hangover.
As I stepped unsteadily from the porch, clinging to it as my legs steadied themselves (making me look like Bambi when he takes his first steps), the taxi driver rushed over to me, said something (which I ignored). He supported my arm before guiding me gently into the cab, I grunted an unintelligible thank you at him surprised at his politeness…did I really look that frail?
He leapt into the front of the car, peered over his shoulder at me then in a slow, loud, monotone voice, not unlike the one I reserve for speaking to the locals on holiday, said
‘WHERE TO MATE?’
The sudden explosion of noise set off 2 reactions, the first made me realise that there was a small herd of elephants parading around my head, and not content with just parading they were defecating in my mouth. The second was to usher a wave of nausea from my empty stomach. I must have turned green because he followed up with a
‘ARE YOU ALL RIGHT? ‘ In the same loud grating monotone
‘God yes I’ll be fine just please, please be quiet’ I whimpered as I wrapped my hands round my head praying that the incessant pounding would subside.
‘YOUR NOT DEAF’ he exclaimed
This kind of threw me…I was pretty certain id never been deaf but in my current state I really couldn’t be certain
‘urrr no ….just fragile’
‘WHAT NOT BLIND EITHER?’ he shouted
‘No…should I be?’…. I was kinda worried now…how bad did I look…what was going on? Things had seemed to start well…maybe I was asleep and dreaming…I pinched myself…. Now my arm hurt as well as my head…. I sighed heavily.
‘Well what kinda fool wears sunglasses at 5:30am if they aint blind?’
Things fell into place
‘Ahhh’ I said and hoped it would suffice as I returned to cradling my head. I heard a muffled muttering along the lines of
‘better mmmmffff tip mmmmmf cheeky bugger mmmmf think I am?’
We set off down the road
Arrived back home at 5:40, ran inside, grabbed my briefcase and threw myself back into the cab as we set off again for the station. Thankfully by now the cabbie had realised I wasn’t going to be discussing the merits of a 3-5-2 formation or comment on the latest west end show and drove me quietly but erratically to the station.
Got to the station, checked my watch it was 5:40 I still had fifteen minutes so I walked to the café and ordered a coffee. As I’m fumbling for the right change I hear
‘The train departing from platform 3 is the 5:55 to Glasgow’
I look at my watch…. It’s 5:40 the trains…. Light dawns…. Change is dropped heavily on the counter, coffees in my hand and I’m running once more.
I leap onto the train and hear a whistle…. I smile things aren’t that bad after all. I find a seat and slump into it breathing heavily but its ok I have 4 hours in which to sleep this off.
I open the coffee…mmmm coffee the life blood and staple diet of salespeople…I take a sip and curse heavily as I burn my tongue…why do they do this in stations? This things hotter than liquid napalm…I set it back on the table and watch it longingly as it desperately tries to leap from the plastic container while the train rumbles off.
Finally it cools and I get to drink it, the headaches slowly subsiding but I’m still feeling a little queasy…I need food… I begin to dream of the plastic tasting, soggy bacon roll I will eat when the buffet car opens.
How did my life ever come to this? I’m dreaming of possibly the worse sustenance known to man since some French bloke went…. Hmmm that snail looks appetising I think I’ll cook a few…. Hopefully that slimey trail will taste nice too.
I’m jarred from this thought as the train stops, I look out the window and it hits me it IS going to be one of those days.
He’s there…on the platform…. Looks like he slept there clutching his open can of special brew…I shrink down into my seat but I know its too late he’s gonna sit next to me no matter what I do…. I seem to attract them whenever I go on public transport…. Maybe it’s a service that the rail companies don’t tell you about
‘Oh yes sir the seat I’ve reserved for you is near the buffet car and comes with a complimentary drunk to keep you petrified for the entire journey’
I look again but he’s gone…. My spirits lift and I breathe a sigh of relief…. Then the door slides open and I smell the beery breath as he leans over and says in a thick Glaswegian accent ‘nee one seetin ere laddie?’
My mind races as I try to think of something to say…. Why didn’t I just say yes? 3 bloody letters and its beyond my capacity to come up with it before he’s lowering his stained trousers into the seat next to me…I edge closer to the window and stare out wishing Id taken my car
‘Ack mon ya gut nee drink ja won soma ine?’
My mind races furiously…what did he say? Can I say pardon to him? Will it offend him? I smile politely and decide to say nothing but my mouth decides to say
‘I’ve no idea my watch is broken’ I inwardly cringe…. Where did that come from? I look at him and see my reply registering in his head, his eyes narrow and he leans in to me
‘ar ju takin da piss?’
His breath washes over me and makes me gag I look down and try to force my stomach under control.
He turns away and sways a little…I look away and decide to pretend to sleep, my head rests on the window and I close my eyes, without realising I am rocked asleep by the motion of the train.
My eyes jerk open… Something is on me…its on my right shoulder…I turn my head and my nose brushes a mop of greasy greying hair…. Oh god can things get any worse than this?
I discover they can as I realise not only is this drunk Scotsman sleeping on me he’s also slowly drooling down my lapel…I stare at him, probably only for seconds but it feels like a lifetime, I have to make him move… I shrug my shoulder in the hope he will move over…he seems to take it as a sign of affection and nuzzles himself closer to my neck. Oh dear god what can I do…. I tentatively poke the top of his head with my left hand, cringing as I feel that unwashed hair. I’m slowly lifting his head from my shoulder when the train hits a bump and with unnecessary and unwanted force I propel his head to the other side of his shoulders, he grunts awake. Blinks wildly then slams his hands down on the table, sending his nearly empty can of beer into the aisle.
I’m gonna die…. I know it…he’s gonna go mad…I’ve woken him up and made him spill his beer…OH MY GOD I’m gonna die…I close my eyes waiting for the onslaught…the table creaks ominously…I clench my fists…. Maybe I stand a chance I wasn’t a bad fighter at school…dammit if I’m gonna die I’m gonna die fighting. I open my eyes and turn to confront him…. But he’s gone his beer cans still rolling about on the floor but he has gone. I take the opportunity to move seats. My eyes scan the now crowded carriage and fall upon an old lady, one that looks feeble and unthreatening. I stagger down the carriage towards her still pumped up on the adrenaline rush from my recent encounter. I ease myself into the seat next to her. She turns and smiles her wrinkled white framed face at me and offers me a mint, I decline and look down at my suit, the drunks saliva is slowly crusting over and I feel the nausea returning…oh god just get me to bloody Glasgow.