I was reminded about the way in which I can usually be relied on to conduct myself, when I passed a family scowering the platform timetables looking for the next train to Gravesend. With the day’s events and numerous conversations weighing heavily on my mind – that journey home takes forever when I’m slightly below par – it was inevitable I’d lose patience with their seemingly constant inability to arrive at a decision.
“That’s the one we want,” signalled the grandfather of the family and obvious self-imposed leader of the group, “The next one is the 1929.”
“Where, I don’t see it,” complained his wife, her nose pressed against the timetable, “I don’t see where you mean. Where?”
“There,” he shouted back, pointing more insistently, “Now where do we get it from. It’s platform three.”
It wasn’t platform three. It was nothing like platform three. I know that. Nothing goes south of London Bridge from platform three. Impatience at not being able to find out when the next train to Hither Green departed fuelled my certainty that the day-tripping family needed advice and did not need platform three.
A firm, practical yet goal-driven approach seemed the best course of action. I waded in accordingly.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked with a charming smile and assertive tone.
“Well, Gravesend, obviously,” replied the grandmother.
Overlooking her impatience, I pointed to the departures screen above their heads. “The 1929 doesn’t go from platform three. It goes from platform five. You’re obviously not going to get that one, so you’re next train is at 1943.”
Clearly impressed with my obvious can-do attitude, one of the ladies in the group turned around and asked, “And where should we go for that one?”
“Well,” I replied, “just keep an eye on the departures screen up there. The 1943 isn’t on there yet because it’s too early. But it should appear at the bottom of the right hand screen shortly.”
“Thank you,” she replied, “you’ve been so helpful.”
“You’re welcome. If you fancied a walk you could always try the departures board at the top of those stairs along the platform. You’ll find all the departures there listed by town.”
At no point did I think for a moment (until I find myself retelling the tale) that I was pointing out the blindingly obvious. And yet, realising that my train to Hither Green also left from platform five in only a few minutes, I quickly trotted up the stairs, over the footbridge and down on to the platform. When I looked over my shoulder I found them not far behind having followed me up the stairs and past the departure board.
It’s not that I’m feeling smug they followed my advice. I’m not necessarily relieved they found their train. I’m more impressed with myself that in a split-second when I observed intense irritation brewing uncontrollably inside me, I felt able to pinpoint exactly what needed to done and how it needed to be done in order to get the irritation out of my system and out of my way.
I sound vile, don’t I? I don’t mean to. What that little exchange reminded me of was how I’m exactly the same in situations where I’m keen to see something completed. If there’s something I know needs doing and I know exactly who I need to speak to in order to get it done, I’m there like a shot talking to all and sundry regardless of their status or personality.
It’s something I feel proud of as I sit at Hither Green station platform finishing this little missive off. It’s also something I know antagonises the hell out of most people I come into contact with.