Yesterday, I had a very strange incident on one of the First Great Western slamdoor trains from Paddington.
Last night, when my train arrived in Didcot Parkway, I stood up, grabbed my overcoat from the overhead storage and left the train. Same routine every day.
As I was walking off the platform, I put my coat on and realised that my keys weren’t in the pocket and that the pocket had a hole in it. I put my hand down the hole to feel around the bottom of the coat, but couldn’t find the keys. I checked the other pocket and found that my gloves were also missing. In a split second, I realised I had put on someone else’s coat. The train was still there so I sprinted back to the train. Which coach was it? I took the best guess.
I shoved past several people to get onto the train and ran back to the place I think I was sitting. I was sitting in the middle of the coach. I was terrified the train would leave and I would be on my way to Swindon–“Sorry kids, I won’t be home for a couple of hours. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I tore off the coat I left the train with and threw back into the overhead compartment. When I glanced back at it, my suit jacket was inside the coat so I had to jump up and get my jacket out of it. I could hear the doors slamming. The people sitting below these luggage containers were staring at me too. I could hear music and realised my headphones had come out of my phone and while I was running around, I they could all hear the music from the phone in my pocket. I was listening to David Lee Roth “Just Like Paradise”–how embarrassing. I fumbled my hand in my pocket and turned off the phone.
I pulled down a different overcoat from the overhead bin and turned towards the door, but noticed it wasn’t my coat either, so I threw it back. I checked one more before I found one that clinked like it had keys in it. With my book bag, my suit jacket, and overcoat bundled in my arms, I ran back down the aisle and towards the door.
When I got to the door (shoving past the same people I shoved past on the way in, but this time they stood to the side), the train was not moving–but the door was locked! I pulled down the window and hung my body out to shout to the guard. I waved my arms around and shouted “Stop!” There was no guard on the platform and I was largely ignored. Typical. I was on my way to Swindon.
Still, in a split second I figured we hadn’t really started moving yet and swung my leg out over the window. The train started creeping forward–but I was already committed to this action. I had one leg out the window but the upper half of my body wouldn’t fit out the window with all the stuff on my arms. A guy standing next to the door shouted, “I’ll hold your coat and throw it to you!” Made sense. I brought my leg back into the train and shoved my head out the window first and then brought my leg out. I was mostly out of the train and looking for someplace to put my foot. There was a tiny ledge at the bottom of the door I was able to stand on and get my other leg over. I was still over the platform and jumped. The man threw me my bag and coats from the moving window as I shouted thank you.
As my heart raced and I breathed heavily, I watched the train leave. A few people from the coach I just left were watching me out the window. I was amazed to find I had everything (coat, jacket, bag) and very relieved that the coat I grabbed really was my coat. I put my coats on and looked along the platform expecting some official to have a word with me or give me a fine. Nothing. I made it home in time to see my kids before they went off to bed.
When I first moved to England nine years ago, my mother-in-law told me that being American covered a multitude of sins. I didn’t have to worry about doing or saying stupid things since most English people expect it from me anyway. I tend to embarrass myself on a regular basis. Despite my putting on a suit and heading into the city everyday like a grown up, I tend to put myself into situations where I’m running around like an idiot.
I wonder if I’ll see anyone on this morning’s train who saw me last night. I was too frantic to get a good look at anyone. What they must of thought seeing me jump onto the train, run down the aisle to the tunes of David Lee Roth and throw coats around and take one before running back down the aisle and jumping out the window.
Two more weeks of the contract. Two more weeks of this commute. I think it’s starting to mess with my head.