For a few days last week, I found myself gratefully employed (one cannot live on dreams alone) and my mind sprang up with travel possibilities and the best way to squeeze some writing in on my way into Dublin city. I’ll get the train I thought, those romantic memories returning of sitting in my own little world, my book swirling in a dance around my head and me its wily choreographer, as the train carriage slides hypnotically through the gorgeous countryside. But reality it seemed had a lesson to teach about best laid plans and so I found myself seated (thankfully) and squashed (uncomfortably) in among three others as I tried to wrestle my little laptop out of its cover.
My knees were waging a war with the man opposite – patella against patella in a fight to the death or at least until I could wriggle away. There – perfect! Just tune it all out. Get in the zone! I slung my headphones on as Dave Gahan’s darkly beautiful voice enabled that drift, pushing the volume up so as to drown out any audible civilian distraction and fired up my little Acer, its tiny white keys full of possibilities. Writing is like a yoga workout, you start out feeling a bit decrepit, your joints stiff and then you stretch and your muscles take the fullest and purest of oxygenated breaths and magically they start to infuse with energy and you feel more and more capable with every inhalation.
I had only taken my first deep energising breath when all yoga analogies came to a swift end. My computer screen glared back at me, like a cartoon villain, one eyebrow arched high, lips curled in a sneer. Ah yes it bristled. Thought you could just pick me up whenever you want. Don’t have your fancy home PC now do you? Ha no, just little old me and my little ole version of Office, screaming to be renewed and therefore useless. I did what any respectfully sane person would do – tap the keys incessantly hoping it would overlook it this time and just let me type. But no, Word had shut up shop, slamming its metal shutter down on my poor hopeful fingers.
I resisted the urge to scream FUCK! out loud and calmed myself. This was not a disaster. I’d just log on to the Wi-Fi and update it. As I rattled around for a good signal, the screen rolled a taunting bar sideways, like a digital finger to its temple deciding my fate. No signal. I’d already travelled three stops and so far my writing existed only of random curse words not even committed to paper. I had sacrificed my real notebook for my digital one in my bag and my heart sank slowly to the bottom of the passing canal.
Sweeping that aside for the day, I was realistic when it came to my journey home. I hadn’t been able to update the package so I told myself to keep it simple – just get a seat and go from there. I could write on my phone. Not ideal but you do what you have to do. I entered the train station three minutes before my train was due and ran the usual five minute walk to the platform. Now I’m not a runner. I don’t like it and it doesn’t like me but faced with 30 minutes wait for the next one I found myself barrelling up the gangway from the underpass, my train’s final carriage ten yards away, the doors thankfully still open but stuffed to the gills with weary commuters. With a last burst I made it through before the doors closed and like a sardine in a very oily, squashed and sweaty tin, the train pulled out for home, my face virtually pressed to the glass. Writing on the train! Breathing on the train was my priority.
I tried to settle my panting and take deep breaths as the man’s newspaper beside me crumpled into my shoulder. How was there room for a paper! My feet felt spongey in my shoes, swelling from the sprint and glued as they were in one spot, they were showing their agitation. Your bottom should be on a seat by now, they screamed. I know! I screamed back. The claustrophobia and the heat in the carriage weighed heavy and I knew that I was going to have to take off my coat or collapse. As I contorted myself out of my bag which was slung across my body, I set off all manor of contraptions like that old game of Mouse Trap. My bag caught in my hood, which as I wriggled free pulled my ponytail loose and my headphones sideways off my head before knocking my glasses off my face to the carriage floor. In a narrow space filled with strangers I felt like a sea divided us, the people who have their shit together – and me.
I eventually got a seat about two stops from home but I spent that time trying inconspicuously to unravel the mess I’d made of my headphones, conscious that the sight of me pulling them one way, actually strangling myself and having to work out how to best get out of them must seem hilarious/sad from afar and in my head all I could hear was Bruce Willis’s voice doing his best John McClane…Get the train, they said! Write, they said!