Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Train tales #2: taking the piss

Yes, Train tales #1 was back in 2013.

The smell of him fills the train carriage before I even see him, before he's even in the carriage. An overriding stench of urine and alcohol. The man sits across the aisle from me, opposite me. The smell of him makes me want to gag. He looks fairly respectable, possibly in his late 30s, neatly cut curly black hair, glasses, green jacket. But the bottom of his jeans are filthy, and he has a filthy carrier bag full of stuff. From which he proceeds to unpack a smart-looking video camera and an iPad. He connects the two up. Not your typical homeless guy, for sure.

At least I'm an aisle apart from him; there's a woman sitting directly opposite him on the same table. She looks aghast and is perhaps holding her breath. The guy is quite pleasant and chatty, in that mad kind of way, half muttering to himself, half talking to the woman. She doesn't really want to engage him in conversation.

By now he's got his camera and iPad linked up and seems to be editing a video. If it wasn't for the smell and the carrier bags, he'd look quite cool. He notices the book cover of the novel the woman's reading. There's a photo of London Eye on the front. 'What's that on the front?' he asks her, directly. 'What?' she says. 'That photo on the front of your book, what's it of?' She tells him it's the London Eye. 'What a coincidence!' he exclaims. 'I'm making a film about London, and was just editing a sequence with the London Eye. I thought I recognised it'. The woman doesn't say anything in return.

The man gets up abruptly, walks out the carriage and enters the toilet. The woman and I collectively exhale. She takes some perfume out of her bag and sprays it liberally all around her. It's a bit better, but the mix of perfume and urine actually quite sickly.

The man returns a few minutes later. He stands in front of his table. 'What's that smell?' he asks to no one in particular. 'It's like a combination of... caramel and flowers.' No one says anything. That he has a fine sense of smell is, well, quite extraordinary. He seems completely oblivious to his own aroma.

After another ten minutes of editing and muttering and stinking he packs up all his things and walks to the other end of the carriage, finding another seat there for no apparent reason. Maybe he didn't like the smell.

I exchange a vague look of relief with the woman, though I can still smell the man from the other end of the carriage when the breeze whoofs down my way.

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