Gill was traveling recently to and from London — by train. She quite likes the British rail system, finding it generally a convenient and comfortable way to travel. It certainly, by all her accounts, rates higher than our local long distance bus or our rail system. Of course, the British system does tend to grind to a stop when extraordinary things happen — such as leaves on the track.
Gill has used the trains often enough that she understands their idiosyncrasies and protocols. And given that we’re talking British rail, there are strict protocols. She is particularly fond of something called ‘The Quiet Car’. Since she is usually tired, hungover, or stressed out by work or a family crisis when she travels, she goes directly to this special car to find peace and a respite from the teaming hordes.
Being a bit of a loner, she prefers not to get into conversations with fellow travelers. She regularly complains, when trapped in an Airways transit bus here with several chatty people who insist on telling her their life stories, that she wished they’d ignore her and leave her to her own malevolent thoughts. Her general existential malaise, after all, needs time to fester. But no, they insist upon thrusting pictures of their children, pets, or grandkids at her, expecting a positive response. They don’t realize that not snarling at them IS Gill’s best response. And since our area of town is last on the route, she is captive until everyone else has been dropped off .
She arrives here and regales me with the chit chat. One Chatty Kathie explains:”We ‘re just home after visiting cousin Bob in Shitzplat, Nowhere. He just got some new pigs for his herd, don’t cha know? And Auntie Miranda just gave birth to her fifth child. A looker, just like her mother…”
Her husband adds: “They got a good deal on those pigs. Came from the farm just to the west of the new Costco store that’s being built. That store’s gonna save us some driving when it opens. Closer than the Walmart. We’re renovating the house soon — Costco might have some cheap bathroom fixtures.” Gill’s eyes glazed over two miles back, of course, but she grimaced politely and prayed to someone (anyone) to deliver her from her current misery.
So accustomed is Gill to grinning and bearing this onslaught of neighborliness on our local buses, trains or Airways Transit that she lives for the solace and quiet of The Quiet Car. Unfortunately, this last trip proved problematic. Despite signs posted everywhere, announcing that she was in The Quiet Car, Gill was horrified that two old biddies in the back were talking back and forth. Now British etiquette demands that one not say anything impolite, instead doing the stiff upper lip thing and powering through.
I find it amusing that Gill loves the Quiet Car as much as she does. This was the kid who, although she loved the library, hated the constant admonitions from the librarians to ‘shush’. She always had lots to say and didn’t like to be reined in. And then there was the issue of an authority figure trying to tell her what to do. The librarian was lucky Gill didn’t toilet paper the washroom or vaseline the toilets (she did this at home once and it certainly makes a point — albeit a slippery one!).
She told me that, although she considered telling the biddies to shush, an older English gentleman in a completely tweed outfit did it first. Just as well. Gill might have caused an international incident, what with the general dislike of immigrants there in these post-Brexit days. It’s safer to maintain a low profile when in potentially hostile territory.