Diary

The Tail

22 October 2007 | Diary

The voice was somehow both monstrous and fey.

It asked: “Do you want anything from the trolley?”

Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do. You. Want. Anything. From the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Doyouwantanythingfromthetrolley? Do you want anything from the trolley. Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley?! Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley, do you want anything from the trolley do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley?

The voice was asking us if we wanted anything from the trolley. It and the trolley were attached to a fat middle-aged man.

Not a single passenger in Coach F of the 16:42 train from Aberdeen to Glasgow wanted anything from the trolley.

There was only about twenty-five minutes of the journey left. Humans can survive without sustenance for so long. Food was not required by anyone. He may as well have been selling scuba gear or grandfather clocks: there was no market here for egg sandwiches.

There is something awfully disconcerting about seeing a middle aged Ricky-Tomlinson-looking fat man selling sandwiches for ScotRail. Why was he in this situation? Much like many of my father’s postwar dad-generation, he resembled one of those instant disguises you can buy in joke shops: a pair of lensless spectacles with a strawberry nose and a plastic mustache attached.

Rotund, gasping and largely extinguished; how had he got to be fifty-something without figuring out how to avoid jobs such as this one? He should be at home with a pipe and a dachshund or at the very worst, shuffling paperwork for an air conditioning company.

How did he even get this job?

Train Company guy: I dunno, Mister Creosote. We normally only hire healthy young college girls for this role.
Fat Guy: Please. I’m at the end of my tether. A lifetime career in the yogurt industry has come tumbling around my ears. Everyone wants that actimel stuff now. We can’t manufacture probiotics!
Train Company guy: Hmm. Maybe we can come to some arrangement. (Producing a baby costume). Put this on for me and dance.
Fat Guy: What?
Train Company Guy: Be a good little baby and dance! Dance for me! Dance! Hahaha!

I expect the interview went something like that.

He was too fat to comfortably maneuver down the gangway. A young boy sitting opposite me had stowed a skateboard in the overhead compartment. Surely it could be employed as an oversized shoe horn?

As he stumbled along, hips unavoidably rubbing against our shoulders (“Do you want anything from the trolley? Do you want anything from the trolley?”), I noticed that something was hanging by a string from his arse.

Looking closely, I saw that it was the plastic packaging rings from a six-pack of canned lager. It dangled pointlessly, a limp tail, from his pinafore strings.

It was the finishing touch on a specter of total shame. It was the jaunty hat grudgingly worn by teenage workers in a fast food kitchen. It was the insulting tip left to a Starbucks waitress. It was the wise-ass alligator puppet with whom the Shakespearian actor is forced to work after his decline into children’s television presenting.

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not taking the piss out of this unfortunate character. Indeed, I kvelled with love and wanted more than anything to invite him to work in the cushdie and well-paid capacity as my personal assistant for life. But alas I don’t have the wad. Only a year ago, I was pouring coffee myself.

For the rest of the journey, he stood in the vestibule with a drunk lady, sharing her bottle of Budweiser. Complaining he said, “I’ve been doing this job since Birth”.

Or maybe he said “Perth”.

***

Upon the train’s arrival into Glasgow, the young boy seated oposite me began exploring the undersides of the seats. “Dad, where’s my skateboard?”

A far more charming version of “Dude, where’s my car?”, I thought.

The boy’s dad, a remarkably attractive young Samuel Beckett who had been reading an article about Captain Beefheart in a music magazine for the duration of the journey, began looking around similarly low locations.

“I think I saw you put it up top,” I said helpfully to Beckett.

Beckett looked at me with dagger-eyes. “Oh, did you?” he said. His tone flanked the border between suspicion and irritation.

I think he had tried to loose the skateboard and I had ruined his plan. I hope it wasn’t the bane of his existence or anything.



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