May 2007
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Train Tilt

It’s my last work trip to London, for a while at least.  Pros: no more 6.30 alarms.  Cons: no more compilmentary at-seat breakfasts on a free first class ticket.

Thanks to the Virgin Traveller programme, which I "qualified" for by booking eight return tickets to Cheltenham, I’ve been able to sit in a slightly bigger seat for free on any Monday morning or Friday evening journey.  It’s already more than paid for itself – entry to the programme cost about £500, and every morning journey I’ve made to London would have cost £54, in a cheap seat, without breakfast.  I didn’t even need to go to Cheltenham.

Membership has its benefits: two first class weekend return tickets to anywhere on the network.  I always book both seats, even if I’m travelling alone.  That way the seat reservations are always for a proper four-seat table, not a one-on-one table.

That’s the theory at least, but seat reservations appear to mean very little, particularly to people who pay £150 to get to work.  At least in standard class you see people looking a bit shifty when they know they’re sitting in someone else’s seat, ready to get up and avoid embarassment as soon anyone looks like they’re going to confront them.

The real problem is that I’m absolutely hopeless this early in the morning.  So when I see two ladies sliding into opposite corners of my table just ahead of me, one saying "you go that side so you can spread out a bit", I’m in no fit state to politely and, more important, coherently point out that one would actually be spreading into my seat, would you mind letting me sit there, and it has to be the window seat so I can use my laptop, and by the way can’t you read the fucking sign?

What’s that… is it a monster?  No, it’s just me before I’ve had my third cup of coffee and luke warm hash brown.  I decide it’s best not to engage them.

What do you say?  "Hey, you’re in my seat".  So she lets me sit next to her and opposite her friend and I get caught in some crossfire talk about shopping or periods or whatever while I’m eating a particularly chewy sausage.

Do I really whip out the second ticket and say "I pwn your seat too"?  The best that can happen then is she moves over to the other side of the table and I have to face her for the next hour and a half.  Hell hath no fury like a woman asked to move seats by a fat dude?

All I want to do is curl up and zone out until my rubber bacon arrives.

So here I am squatting in some other bastard’s single seat – I know this because it says "reserved" above it, it’s not hard – and winding myself up because I only got one seat for free, not two. 

I’ll try to calm down a little when I get off the train and to Costa Coffee.  Even though I know they’ll assume I want milk in my Americano.  No.  Thank you.

What an amazingly spoilt start to the week.