The Quiet Carriage.

  The Quiet Carriage. cell-phone stories
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Thoughts on my train travels

The Quiet Carriage.

The quiet carriage is the thinking commuter's carriage. It is like first class, without the twenty-pound surcharge, or the little packet of out of date complimentary biscuits. The seats are no different from the rest of the train, but the innate fear of being quiet drives away most of the punters, meaning that statistically, there are always more seats in the quiet carriage than anywhere else. Therefore, you book a prized

spot, facing the direction of travel, with a window, a table and power socket, in the quiet carriage. Of course, before you settle yourself into your seat, you must smugly stroll past all the vulgar people who chose the 'normal' carriages. There, there is noise, offensive food smells, children, snorers, more children - all the things that a journey of several hours could do without. Which is why you

had the foresight to book in the sacred place, the fortress of solitude, the spa sans the back rub but plus the armrest - the quiet carriage. And closing the door on all the rabble, you are at peace. Then, you hear them. You cannot see them yet, as they are facing away from you, but you know just who is sinning. They are loud, and using words like 'projection', and

'viability', and 'yeah, guys'. You can also smell their coffee, which has been frothed and sugared to the point of intestinal destruction. It is a busy business person. The offender will be wearing a high-street suit, and own an unnecessarily expensive laptop. They will also have accessories that will annoy you immensely when they jangle about, stuffing low-grade supermarket sushi down their

gullets. And, worst of all, they will never end their phone conversation. All you can do is pray that you are sat nowhere near them and they alight at some god-forsaken little satellite town on the edge of a city not worth visiting. But of course, this is not the case. You are sat next to them. As the carriage, now desecrated most vilely, fills, there is nowhere for you to turn. Each seat is reserved and a queue has

started to form. You might look behind you in earnest, hoping some kind soul would sacrifice their seat for yours, but no such luck. The steely glint in their eyes tells you all that you need to know. They know where you are going, and they are enjoying your pain. Like a lamb to the slaughter, you are shoved to your place. Of course, the busy business person is polite. They pause

their inane business jargon to look up at you, smile, and swivel their legs so they you can squeeze past. Due to profit margins on the train company's front, the seats are uncomfortably close, but your numbed body feels nothing as you break your limbs trying to shuffle past. Desperately, you check your ticket once more. No - you are in the right seat. You try to recall how many tunnels this train will pass

through, so that the phone-signal would die, but you are thwarted again! The busy business person is using the complimentary wifi to communicate. You glance across the aisle at a perfectly behaved quiet carriage passenger who is reading a marginally right-wing newspaper. They give you that sympathetic shrug, and a lame smile that demonstrates their understanding. But then, they

dig around in their bag and pull out their headphones - the noise cancelling sort that can drown out an entire aeroplane. Savagely you hope that their teenage son has broken them and instead of owning up to their crime, just returned them to the bag. But, alas, they seem to be working. The doors let out a shrill note to signal that they are closing. You are trapped. As you

silently bash your head on the window, you watch the station pull away. How long is this journey? Four hours? Five? Delays are common this time of year. Whatever it is, it will seem an eternity. And to top it all off, you cannot complain. Any screams of agony must die in your throat, and all attempted murder is strictly forbidden. This is the hell you must bear in strictest

silence. This is the quiet carriage.

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