I was in London this week. I don’t really like London, not quite my bag I’m afraid. Too fast – unfriendly – expensive. But thankfully I have a choice not to live there. So do all the others, too, there’s always choice. I offer them no sympathy.
My train is late; I’m not surprised, nor even upset. An extra 30 minutes in Liverpool Street station gives me time to admire it’s astonishing old architecture, with a roof suspended on vaulted pillars crafted in a Victorian age from cast iron in intricate patterns by gifted tradesmen.
I do this standing up – stations no longer have seats.
They no longer have common sense either, as I am about to find out.
As it is lunchtime by my out-of-sync time clock, I browse no less than 17 outlets offering me fast food, even faster food, express food and possibly super-sonic meals, were I to request one.
Selecting a high-speed sandwich and an express expresso, I loiter amongst the angst of delayed commuters, balancing my goodies while clinging to my luggage as the fearsome tyrannical lady on the tannoy announces that she will detonate it if it is more than 3 inches from my grasp.
However, having devoured my overpriced and tasteless dejeuner, I am left with its highly unnecessary packaging to dispose of. This proves to be rather more of a problem than I have bargained for.
Somehow, I feel significantly uncomfortable as I glance around like a probing owl, looking for a bin. Perhaps a bit too paranoid that I am being monitored as a terrorist, I do my best to look casual as I saunter around, peering into corners and behind bill-boards for somewhere to unload my burden. My search is fruitless, save for viewing a sign that tells me that ‘dropping litter’ is a capital offence punishable by extended sentences, possibly in a cell shared with sex-offenders.
In the end I ask a guard.
He has no idea, because he works for Anglia Trains – whoever they might be – which somehow makes him exempt from giving advise on anything other that revised train schedules. Please stand behind the line.
I ask another.
‘It’s outside,’ he informs me.
‘Outside the station, Sir. No bins allowed in a railway station!’ He tells me this quite smugly, glaring at the scrumpled up paper cup in my hand as though I was a common litter criminal.
I gather my luggage and head for the exit in search of the holy-grail depository.
‘Ticket?’ demands yet another guard, holding out a chiselled hand. Plenty of guards – just no bins.
‘But I haven’t been anywhere!’
‘Still need a ticket to leave the station.’
I eventually find it in the depths of a pocket and show it to him, and he nods me past.
Aha! At last, a big green plastic bin, on wheels – which is padlocked!
I consider leaving my cup and sandwich box on its roof until I spy the same guard watching me suspiciously. Instead, I make for the exit proper, just about managing to contain my rubbish and luggage in my only two hands. The upward escalator is still, and my way barred with yellow tape displaying the words caution on it. Obviously a non-moving escalator is far too dangerous for me to be near.
A sign says: ‘USE THE FUCKING STAIRS!’
It doesn’t actually say fucking, I made that up, but I am convinced it would do if it could. Because it is a serious offence to cross yellow tape, and my cellmate beckons.
3 flights of stairs - 3 whole fucking flights - I struggle up, with my heavy luggage and this toxic waste in my hand, until I reach the street.
A bin – there it is on the other side of the road. Not just any road – Liverpool Street. If this street was actually the main street in Liverpool, it could not have been busier.
Patiently I wait for the little man to turn as green as I feel after those 3 stairs, allowing me my rite of passage over the impetuous drivers, each one who would rather kill me in a heartbeat than waste their life waiting for one minor to cross the road.
In goes the cardboard – at last. I consider yelling triumphantly.
As I turn to retreat, the man changes from green to red - as red as my anger. In the distant railway station, my train has arrived, secretly creeping up on me. It was to be 30 minutes late, but now it’s magically caught up.
Toot-toot – it says.
My life flashes in front of me as I flash in front of a taxi breaking the land-speed record with its horn blowing, and take on the 3 flights, in rapidly descending order.
‘Fuck-off!’ I want to shout, but thankfully I remember that prison-cell and desperately seek out the meagre flimsy tissue-like paper with a barcode on it that I have just paid in excess of thirty quid for.
It may very soon expire.
So might I.
Toot-toot – says my train again. Come on you, why weren’t you waiting with the others. I’m going to leave you here, just for fun.
Under the wrath of a thousand stares, the wheels of my trolley-bag firing off dangerous sparks from the cobbles of the platform underneath, I make it just in time and find a seat.
‘Welcome to the Stanstead Express,’ says the driver. ‘Calling at next city, small village, big village, hamlet, little hamlet, bigger hamlet and miniscule rural settlement before it reaches Ryanair, possibly some time this afternoon – Anglia trains accepts no responsibility for the lateness of any of its trains. Ever! So there! Furthermore, I would like to advise you there are no bins on this train, so take you rubbish home with you, you scumbags!’
At last, I can look my fellow man shamelessly in eye again.