Thursday, 7 January 2016

Dear Lady on the Tube

Dear Lady on the Tube,

You left your umbrella behind. I don’t think you noticed at the time but you did. A purple umbrella, decorated with what looked like flowers. A pretty umbrella. Now forgotten.

Meanwhile the man sitting next to you saw you leave it. He saw you leap up and rush for the doors, he reached for the umbrella, he shouted after you. You didn’t hear. He jumped up and pushed through to the platform, another shout, some waving but you’d gone. He looked down at the purple patterned accessory in his hand and sat down. For the rest of that journey I watched as he just sat with the umbrella on his lap and I couldn’t help imagining what could happen. The story that could develop. What would happen if this was a tv show or perhaps a book? Where would the narrative lead? As I sat on that central line train, passing through station after station, I began to create your story in my mind. I mean, what else was I expected to do on a rainy Thursday morning on the central line at rush hour?

I pictured you pushing through the people on the platform late for your first meeting of the day…again. You rush to the top of the escalators, smile sweetly to the bundle of school children in front of you who are all trying, and failing, to get through two of the 5 available gates all in one go. You rush up the steps, see the first drops of rain ahead and reach into your bag.


Did I leave it at home? No, I definitely had it when I left Starbucks with my grande Caffe Misto and fruit and nut bar. And I certainly had it when I checked my watch and realised I only had 2 minutes to get to the tube before I was bound to be late. I definitely had it when I got onto the central line and sat down next to that gentleman with the hoola hoops in his pocket. I could have sworn I had it when……….


Meanwhile: The man on the tube still has the umbrella. He’s twiddling the rope that hangs from the handle around and around his fingers. He’s trying to see how fast he can get the umbrella to spin if he wraps the rope all around his fingers as tight as he can, round and round and then…..whoops! Sorry…apologetic head bob to the man next door that he just hit with this damp purple piece of lost property. Eye roll from the man next door. Those trousers were new, bought at the weekend and not cheap at that! He’ll have to use the hand dryer at work if they’re not dry by his coffee break that he’s due to have the moment he walks into the office. The coffee break he religiously takes at 10:30 even if that does mean it’s the first task of the day.

The man with the umbrella subtly places it in the plastic carrier bag that contains his lunch: a banana he grabbed from Starbucks that morning and a giant cookie…the fruit balances it all out, right? As long as his suit looks smart and he has his briefcase, no one needs to know that he still hasn’t worked out how the microwave works at the office or that he secretly has a bag of hoola hoops in his pocket.

The next stop is Liverpool Street, change here for the Hammersmith and City, Circle and Metropolitan lines and National Rail Services. Alight here if you’re wearing a suit and are still sitting on this train.

Ok, not that last bit but they might as well say it. Suddenly everyone in suits begins to gather their suitcases (because let’s admit, they all have them) and as the doors open, the speed walk race begins. The man with the umbrella strides down the platform swinging his suitcase in a very professional looking manner from his right hand and clutching his carrier bag protectively with his left. Up the escalators, through the barriers, up the stairs, through the station, across the road and into that big glass building he calls work. No, not the one you’re thinking of, the other one…the one to the left…yes, that one. 10 minutes later he’s sitting at his desk trying to work out how to make it look like he knows what he’s doing while he stares at his blank computer screen for as long as his can before he stops for lunch at 1. Then repeat. Home at 5.

The umbrella is still there. In the plastic bag, waiting to be claimed, waiting to be found. He’s still got it the next day when he walks out of his flat, down the stairs, out of the door, sees the rain, looks in his bag, sees the umbrella and puts it up. He still has it when he walks past the Costa Coffee on his left and the RBS on his right and turns the corner towards the underground. He still has it when he walks into Starbucks, shakes out the purple flowers, and rolls it up. He still has it when he feels a hand on his arm and the gentlest and loveliest voice he’s ever heard says:

‘Excuse me, but where did you find that umbrella?’

Yours day-dreamingly,

No comments:

Post a Comment