“I’ve been waiting for eight trains! Eight trains! Eight trains!”
The repetitive woman squawked indignantly at the sheepish herd of people who were crammed into the tube-train carriage, each of them squeezed into their neighbours with a look of discomfort, hands stretched out for any handhold, praying that they would be able to keep their balance when the train moved off. She glared at them with unhidden hostility, jabbing her stroller’s wheel into ankles as she tried to force her way into the carriage.
“I need to get home! Eight trains!” she squawked again.
“There’s no room,” a man in the doorway started to say, his long frame already bent awkwardly to fit in on the edge of the carriage where the ceiling curved down.
“Eight trains,” shrieked the woman, cutting him off. “Of course there’s room, you could all move down the carriage and make some space.”
The standing passengers looked at one another, puzzlement on their faces. They were already standing down the full length of the carriage, carefully ignoring the seated passengers, who in turn were hiding their fear that the train would start moving and one of the standers would fall over and land on one of the sitters. Or worse, several of the sitters, rolling around like a beached walrus, until finally prised off and forced up, backing to a standing position.
“I don’t think we could,” said the man in the doorway, his face flushing with embarrassment at having to point out the obvious truth to the woman. She pushed on the stroller again, bruising his ankles.
“You don’t think!” she said, her voice smug and a smirk on her face revealing that she thought she was the first person ever to find this comeback. ‘If you thought, you would have made room for me by now.”
“Why don’t you fold the stroller up?” said another voice from somewhere inside the carriage. “You’ve said there’s been eight trains, you’ve had plenty of time to fold the stroller up. Then you wouldn’t need anywhere as much space and you’d be able to get on, wouldn’t you?”
“How dare you!” The little woman was so angry that flecks of white spittle flew from her lips and landed on the stroller. “How dare you! I’m entitled, I am! I should be allowed on the train because I have a stroller with me! I have a baby!” She seized the carrier bag hanging ostentatiously from the handle of the stroller and shook it. “This is a Harrods bag! That is how much better than all you I am. I shop at Harrods, and I have a baby and a stroller, and I deserve to be on this train so much more than all of you combined.”
“Fold the stroller up,” came the voice from within the carriage. “Then you can stand it next to you and you’ll take up the space of two people instead of six.”
“And where would my baby go? Should I leave him here on this platform, by himself? Abandon him? Is that what you want?”
“Carry the baby? You have arms, I can see them waving that carrier bag around, so they must work.”
“Carry? Carry the baby? Do you understand how much work that would be? Babies are heavy, and then there’s the stroller! And I have a Harrods bag here with me. Do you think I should spend my money on things only to leave them behind?”
“Sounds better than leaving the baby behind, but you should make your own mind up,” said the voice within the carriage. “Get your stroller off this train, stop trying to get on at the very end of the train, fold it up and carry it and the baby and you’ll get on the next one without any trouble. Make an effort, woman, instead of screaming at the rest of the world to make the effort for you.”
“Nine,” said the voice within the carriage. “Make someone’s else life a misery, we’ve done nothing to deserve it.” The carriage doors started to close with an ominous beeping sound, and the recorded voice came over the speaker system. “Do not obstruct the closing doors.” The man, bent awkwardly and still red-faced, placed a foot against the stroller and extended his leg, pushing it out of the carriage. The doors closed, and he pulled his foot back inside just in time.
“Eight trains!” howled the miserable little woman on the platform, raising a fist and shaking it as the train started to move. “Eight trains!”