7 Reasons It’s Awkward Travelling On The Train (With A Strange Man)
1. It’s Monday morning and I am on the train to London. It’s after 9.00am so the train is fairly empty. I have a a block of six seats to myself. We pull into Maidstone East. A man gets on. He could sit anywhere. But he doesn’t. He sits opposite me, one seat across. Why? Why did he do this? But worse is to follow. He says, ‘Good Morning’. I feel awkward. I know shouldn’t. I know I should just be able to say ‘Good Morning’ back, but it feels strange. A stranger saying good morning to me on a train. I mumble a ‘Hi’ back, feel a bit embarrassed and go back to my book.
2. It’s no more than five minutes later. I am reading, but I can sense the man is looking at me. I feel awkward. I raise my head. Sure enough he is looking at me. He sees my attention on the book has lapsed and takes his chance. ‘Good book?’ he says. ‘So far, it’s very interesting,’ I reply. We spend the next five minutes talking about Harold Larwood. (I am reading his biography). I say we talk about Harold Larwood. He does most of the talking. I pretend to look interested.
3. There is a lull in what was never a flowing conversation. I feel awkward. Is now the time I go back to my book? Or is that deemed rude? Am I now supposed to talk to this man all the way to London Victoria? The man looks towards the window. I see this as the opportunity I have been waiting for. I turn back to my book. And I vow not to look up again.
4. We arrive at London Victoria forty minutes later. We haven’t spoken in that time. I stand up and grab my bag from the rack. The man is still sitting there. What is he waiting for? I feel awkward. What do I do? Am I required to say goodbye? I think about it. In fact I am sure I am about to say it. But I don’t. I just look at him. And half-smile. And half-nod. And half-walk off the train. The other half ran.
5. I’m waiting on the platform for a Wimbledon bound District Line train. Suddenly, from behind a bloke who is no doubt sponsored by Pukka Pies, appears someone I recognise. It’s the man again. And he’s seen me. I feel awkward. Now what do I do? I didn’t say goodbye. Surely that means I don’t say hello. But we can’t just stand next to each other and pretend we are just two people who have never seen each other before. That would be awkward. He’s getting closer. But here comes the train! I feel less awkward. I get on the train. I sit down. The man sits opposite me. I feel awkward.
6. My stop is next. Parsons Green. Surely this man isn’t going to get off here. We have spent twenty minutes not talking to each other. But I haven’t been reading. I have mainly been looking out of the window. But the window is behind the man. So occasionally I’ve caught his eye-line. And I’ve felt awkward. What should I have done? Is he thinking the same as me? Or have I hurt his feelings? Have I made him think he’s boring? Parsons Green arrives. The doors open. I stand up, turn left and alight. I walk down the platform. I dare not look back. I know, I just know, that if I do, he’ll be there. I walk home and never look back.
7. I’m in the kitchen. I’ve just flicked the kettle on. I decide there is probably a 7 Reasons post in this. Something about feeling awkward on the train. I get my notepad out and start scribbling down what happened. I get six reasons done and re-read them. As I read it, I feel awkward. I feel awkward about feeling awkward. I also feel very silly.