Diary

Gray’s Anatomy

07 February 2007 | Diary

As many of my meatworld chums and subscribers to the exclusive (i.e. extra-rubbish) entries are aware, I recently discovered what it is like to be run over by a car. Needless to say it was tremendous fun and that I’d reccomend it to anyone.

Unfortunately the experience resulted in a broken arm and a wounded leg and consequently I have spent much time away from blogging and other things I like to do. But now I am back. Sort of. The arm is still in a cast and typing one-handed is a bugger. This my slight return.

I’m sure I’ll write in time about the accident itself and about being ill and hospital anecdotes and stuff. But in the meantime, I am eager to get back into the world of The Occasional Papers (that’s the title of this diary, you monkey): the world of social faux-pas, silly theories, and nhilistic adventures in transitional spaces:

On the Edinburgh-Glasgow train this evening, a man sat down immediately opposite me. He wore a white shirt with a black suit jacket, and a laminated ID displaying the name ‘Derek Gray’.

I couldn’t tell whether ‘Derek Gray’ was his own name or the name of the company he worked for but I hope he was called Derek Gray because that’s exactly the sort name this man would have: soulless old Derek Gray in his shirt and tie, commuting vast distances every day from his loveless marriage to his pointless managerial job. I’d been hoping for a nice, leg-roomy journey characterised by nothing other than the lazy staring out of the window at the Scottish sunset but instead I would have to put up with anti-charismatic Derek Gray dominating my eyeline and cancelling out all of my coolness like a doppelganger from a negative universe. I’m being cruel but that was the story I composed for him as I sat there, trying not to meet his grey gaze.

Derek would prove to be a far more irritating travelling companion than I had first imagined. Not content with being an ambassador of dull, he constantly coughed at me. It wasn’t even the interesting, characterful coughing of a bronchial disease but more the clearing-the-throat sort of non-cough you’d do if you were trying to get someone’s attention.

“Ahem!” he would say, “Ahem!” and sometimes a more phlegmmy “Aaghhem!”

It was most annoying. I didn’t have any music with which to drown out the ahemming, nor had I thought to bring along my kosh.

Perhaps he actually was trying to get my attention, presumably for some wheezy asphyxiation sex in the train toilet – that’s the sort of thing Derek Gray is into – but you’d think after three or for ‘Ahem!’s he might give up or try nudging me or something.

After a while, Derek Gray began to chew his nails. I had known he was a nail-biter already, of course. That’s the kind of thing Derek Gray does when he’s not writing reports about his staff’s unnaturally disproportionate paperclip expenditure.

But it wasn’t a simple trimming-of-the-talons kind of nail biting that Derek Gray was engaged in. It was the deep-into-the-cuticle sort of nail biting that transcends nail biting and crosses into autocannibalism.

He only did it when he thought I wasn’t looking, so naturally I made a game of it. I’d meet his gaze infrequently and he’d self-consciously fold his hands into his lap. Caught again, Derek Gray.

Eventually it all became too much. I’d been holding back a bladderful of wee in anticipation of using the station’s amenities instead of the smelly, wobbly ones of the train but I decided in the end to kill two birds with one stone by going for my wee and returning to a different seat.

After leaving the lav, I saw that no one was sitting in the vestibule disabled person’s seat. The windows here were larger and cleaner and offered a better sunset. My arm, broken and in a sling meant I could legitimately occupy the disabled chair. I’d give it up for someone with broken legs but no one else would challenge my right to sit there.

So I did. And the view was great. There were some noisy sk8er bois in the next carriage but at least their naughtiness was a sign of life rather than the sign of death offered by Derek Gray.

After a few minutes, who should show up but Derek himself. He too was in need of a wee. He was very quick in the bathroom so there was no autoasphyxiation for him this time but certainly no hand washing either. I don’t suppose you need to worry about penis germs though if you don’t have any fingernails for them to hide beneath.

Derek spotted me sitting in the vestibule and gave me an odd look. Clearly he knew that I’d moved because of him.

I had won. The combo of my watching him chew his fingers and eventually moving seats had alerted him to his own grotesqueness. Perhaps now he will learn how to use his coughing more appropriately and to leave his fingernails alone. It’s all in his best interests of course: he will at least be able to find the end of a role of sellotape now instead of fumbling hopelessly with his rubbery, uriney fingertips.



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