It’s mid-afternoon and I’m at Truro station. I’ve had a mare of a day. I left work to go to the hospital (in non-dramatic, boring, pre-arranged-appointment fashion) and cut it so fine for the train that I had to cycle up the super-steep hill. I normally walk it. It probably would have been quicker to walk it.
Once in Truro, I cycled to the hospital, had my appointment forty-five minutes after I was supposed to, for which I blame the government not the doctor, was gruffly told I need to have a minor operation, had to hang around for ages so that a nurse could stick a swab up my nose and a needle in my arm, and was finally released.
There was a cake situation to get back to the office for. There still is, but I’m definitely not going to make it now. I arrived back at the station at exactly the same time as my train pulled out, because sod’s law is alive and well. I waited half an hour for the next train, and finally got my bike strapped in and my book ready to go. The we sat there. And we sat there. And we sat there some more.
Eventually a man ran through the train calling “Everybody off! The train’s about to catch fire!”.
He was swiftly followed by another man in an actual GWR uniform undoing the panic the first man had set in motion. He also told us we really did have to get off the train because it wasn’t working.
So now I’m standing on the platform of Truro station watching the clock move incredibly slowly towards the time for the next train. I will have been here an hour when it finally arrives. The usual platform for the Truro to Falmouth line is suddenly out of action due to a giant piece of shit (or a “broken down train”. Whatever.) which means I also have the joyous task of carrying my bike over the footbridge. It’s very heavy, but my pride forbids me from accepting help from the numerous people who offer it. I make it eventually, and quietly seethe on the new platform until the train rolls into view.
I vie with two other cyclists to get the best spot. I don’t win. I throw myself into a seat in a huff, play with my phone, and think about the fact that I have a book in my bag that I should definitely be reading instead.
Opposite me a woman takes a greetings card out of her bag and hands it to the man next to her. She searches around her bag and shrugs, so he turns to me and says:
“Excuse me, love. You don’t have a pen, do you? I bet you don’t. People your ages never carry pens any more.”
I’m taken aback by the boldness of this – to use the term extremely loosely – gentleman. It takes balls to ask a stranger if you can borrow something that belongs to them. It takes even bigger, uglier balls to also insult their entire generation while you’re at it. It figures someone would say something to annoy me on a day when I’m already maxed out on fury.
I stand up gracefully even though I’m on a moving train. I put my hand into my bag and, in one smooth motion (where no headphone wires get wrapped around anything else, and no old receipts or tampons or chewing gum wrappers come along for the ride), I produce the pencil case I always carry with me. I fan out the fifteen pens inside (which, yes, is excessive, but you know that feeling of pen paranoia before you go into an exam? That’s my life) and proffer them to the thoroughly shamefaced old man opposite.
“Bite me, sir.” I tell him, sweetly.
Of course, in the not-alternative universe, what I actually do is give the man a filthy look and hand over the pen he requested without a word. I finally make it back to the office, hear about how great the cake situation was, and come up with a million things I should have said to the rude train pen man. It’s a very specific comback niche, but if it ever happens again I’m one hundred per cent ready.