Friday, 14 November 2008

Delays and Good Deeds

It's just after ten in the morning and I'm at Colchester station along with a lot of other people who did not think they would still be here at this time. There is a major signaling problem in the region and there are currently no trains departing from any of the six platforms. Strangers have started talking to each other, bemoaning the delay and passing on scraps of information gleaned from beleaguered station staff.


An old lady is on the phone to a relative, arranging to be picked up, and asks me for advice about where we actually are. We are at Colchester station, although this simple statement of fact could be misleading as there is also a Colchester Town station which is more central but less useful as there are fewer direct trains from there to most other destinations. I help her to resolve the confusion and she seems happy enough.


There have been no raised voices or unbecoming outbursts. If anything the atmosphere feels more relaxed and jovial than normal. If just one or two services had been disrupted then things might have been different, but because we are all in the same boat it is impossible to feel that it is 'just your luck'


I had been sitting on a train which I was told would probably eventually be leaving for Ipswich, halfway to my intended destination of Diss. But now apparently it is certainly eventually going somewhere else and I have come to sit at the far end of the platform, alone except for a young guy with a mountain bike.


A smartly dressed young woman wanders down looking around her in a faintly confused way.

'If you're looking for the ladies it's back that way,' the young guy tells her and then directs her to an alcove at the other end of the platform. She thanks him and goes back the way she came.


A couple of minutes later a more casually dressed, middle aged woman appears. She looks around, gives the door to the disabled toilets a half-hearted push and finds it locked. The young guy steps into the breach again and directs her back. I get the impression that this may be his regular good deed of the day.


There are now one or two sluggish departures taking place and the young guy disappears towards a train bound for Harwich. Inevitably, a couple of minutes after he has gone another lady in search of the ladies walks down towards me, looks at the disabled toilets and then looks around in puzzlement. Unfortunately, apart from something to do with an alcove I can't remember any of the guy's directions, which I think shows a commendable lack of interest in such things on my part, but is no help to this latest victim of some misleading sign somewhere. I stay silent and she gives up and goes back up the platform.


A few minutes later a train to Diss finally arrives and I'm on my way, over an hour late but somehow not unhappy at all about it.


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