Elbows Out

At the time I begin writing this, the clock on the laptop screen is ticking towards 7pm. I can’t glance at the watch on my wrist because the strap snapped earlier this evening. You find me sitting at the desk of a room at the “Premier Inn” in Barnsley, Yorkshire. I’m here with work to do lots of clever things at a nearby office building. If this is your first time reading about my pretending to be clever during the daytime antics, I never really talk about what I do, or who I do it for – it’s just easier that way.

My day began at 5:15am when I woke a few minutes before the alarm in my phone. I looked across at the bedside clock, and started calculating how many minutes I could actually stay in bed for. Of course I then fell asleep, and woke with a start – two more minutes had passed. Ten minutes later I slid out of bed, and tiptoed downstairs in the dark to find the shower, and then the clothes I had neatly laid out the night before.

At half past six I ran out into the frosty darkness of winter morning. I say ran, because my body did that peculiar trick that seems to be unique to me. I was fine for the hour before leaving the house – pottering here and there, packing final bits and pieces in the backpack, and deciding to leave the new Chromebook at home, and then just as I needed to be leaving, my body told my brain “right – let’s get rid of everything. Right now”. I won’t go into more detail than that.

When I presented the bus driver with a crisp new ten pound note, I thought he was going to have an aneurysm. He gave the note a pained expression, and asked me to wait and see what coins other people might give him along the way. The gods smiled, and the lady behind me gave him a handful of coins – exactly the right coins to change my note.

The first bus out of town on a morning always surprises me with how busy it is – and how awake some of the people aboard it seem to be. I wasn’t awake at all.

Twenty minutes later I found myself walking up the hill towards High Wycombe railway station, in a drag-race of sorts with a businessman walking very quickly. Considering I was carrying a backpack *and* towing a trolley suitcase, I thought I did remarkably well to keep up with him. So well in fact that I picked the suitcase up in the end, because I thought he must have thought I was a stalker. Find stalker I would make though – the wheels on the suitcase sound like a machine gun made of biscuit tins. I suppose carrying it meant I didn’t wake the entire town up.

And finally we get to the title of this post. I stowed my bags on the train, and sat in a quiet corner, minding my own business. After a few moments a fellow commuter took his entire surrounding area to be his own personal space, and set about dropping his coat here, his keys there, his bag over there… People actively avoided him while he did this. Eventually he sat down, and a few brave souls made a sprint for the seats around him. Unfortunately this included a tall, gangly chap that wedged himself in alongside me. The first I knew was as I moved several inches further into the corner, shoulder barged with no apology. For the entire journey into London I hunched my shoulders to try and fit into the space he left me, without accidentally on purpose barging him out of his seat, across the next seat, and onto the floor. Do you ever play those scenes out in your head? I do.

An hour later, the London Underground delivered me in St Pancras station, to wander past the various eateries and coffee shops where people who plan things better were sitting around, looking relaxed and wealthy. I wandered into Marks and Spencer on the concourse to grab something for breakfast, and immediately got stuck behind a man and woman who seemed to have no function, other than to get in everybody elses’ way.

Another few minutes pass, and I board my train north. I find my reserved seat, stow my bag, and slide in next to the guy that will be my travelling companion for the next two hours. Well… I try to slide in, but his shoulder and entire arm stop me from really sitting in the center of the seat. I begin wondering when the universe will give me a break. We didn’t exchange a single word for the next two hours – he knew damn well what he was doing, and avoided all eye contact. He also left the notifications on his phone at maximum volume. Asshole.

Half an hour after changing trains at a cold and misty Chesterfield, I became aware of music in the train carriage – music I could hear over the top of the television show I was watching on the Fire tablet (Casual, btw – excellent series – just so you know). I pulled my headphones off, intreagued. It was a portly chap in his sixties sat a few rows in front, wearing headphones – only he had the volume so loud, everybody throughout the train carriage could hear every note of the music he was listening to – if you could call it music. It sounded like some kind of jazz organ maniac playing the same melody over and over again, in a more and more frantic manner. How nobody near him didn’t “have a word”, I don’t know. You usually get at least one busy-body that will complain.


I finally arrived in Barnsley shortly before lunchtime, and found my way through the by now thick freezing fog to my final destination. I’m still humming the jazz organ tune now, dammit.

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