diamond geezer

 Friday, September 15, 2006

An inconvenient truth

Rarely does a week go by without some poor unfortunate group of rail travellers ending up trapped on their trains, often for hours at a time, as a result of some sudden and unforeseen circumstance. Sometimes it's signal failure, sometimes it's track failure, sometimes it's engine failure, and sometimes it's a suicide sparked by perceived lifestyle failure. Whatever the case, if you're unfortunate enough to be on a train which gets stuck somewhere outside a station, you and several hundred fellow commuters could be out of circulation for hours.

Some rail travellers live in fear of being trapped on a train. What if they get stuck for an hour or more? What if they miss their connection? What if the bloke sitting next to them turns out to be a nutter? What if they get stuck for two hours or more? What if they miss their flight? What if all the lights go out? What if they get stuck for the rest of the evening? What if everyone in the carriage runs out of food? What if the train never moves again and life on board evolves into a primitive civilisation revolving around cannibalism and sudoku?

I fear none of the above. If my train is ever halted between stations, there's very little that I can do except put up with the enforced quarantine. But I do fear one particular consequence of being trapped on a tube train, and that's to be stuck underground with a full bladder. Imagine the hideous social faux pas which might occur were the delay to continue for too long. A normal tube journey's no problem, even if I've been out drinking beforehand, because I know relief is never too far away. But if my train ever stops in a tunnel for what looks like forever, merely crossing my legs might not ultimately be sufficient. Given sufficient time that mild inner sensation will become a growing feeling, which can develop into a increasing need, which can build into an definite urge, which can escalate into an urgent compulsion, which can mutate into an unstoppable reflex action. Let's say no more about the incontravertible visual and olfactory evidence which might then emerge. In a confined space such as a rail carriage, surrounded by complete strangers with no means of escape, this could be very embarrassing indeed. And this I fear.

So I'd like to offer my own advice to all rail travellers, in direct contradiction to TfL's usual line. Don't take a bottle of water with you on the tube, it can only make a bad situation worse. Instead, always use the facilities provided - be it at home, at the station, at your place of work or in the pub - before embarking on any train journey. Because it pays to travel empty. And then it won't matter how long your journey might be delayed - you need never fear the consequences of inconvenience.

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