Getting a seat on the train

A story about commuting, wildebeest and sardines

Getting a seat on the train is usually a question of getting an early train to work, and leaving on time. Finishing at 4pm helps me beat the rush hour.

Transpennine trains on Leeds Station

Leaving woks at 4pm is usually enough as I work  close to the station. Today I finished work 5 minutes late as I wanted to finish the task I was on. Nothing unusual there, what was unusual for that time of day was the number of people on the platform. Where there is usually a few, as a train has just pulled out, was a crowd. Still the train was being advertised as on time so I should be OK. Even if I can’t get a seat i can sit on the floor, I’ve done that.

Standing is the problem. Despite an arthritic foot I can physically stand for the duration of the journey, it is only 20 minutes. But I prefer to sleep. Not on the train, but standing on a moving train means the pain build up will affect that night’s sleep. It did not look like I wood be sleeping well tonight.

The expected time of the train changed. It was now delayed. People were still arriving to an already over full platform. The reason became clear: Down the line our train was expected to arrive on came a very delayed train on the Cross Country service and went on to another platform. Ours must have got stuck behind it.

Then a Transpennine rain appeared. It headed to the opposite platform. It said Manchester on the front, so it should be going our way. The reaction on the platform as immediate. At least two thirds of the people on the platform headed for the escalator and stairs with all the purpose of migrating wildebeest. I almost got knocked over in the crush, as one of them did not make allowances that someone standing supported by a stick may not be able to get out of the way. At least the platform was tolerable. The platform sign had not changed, I still read Manchester Pic on platform 16A.

Then, with the platform at the emptiest I had seen it all evening another Transpennine train appeared, this time heading for the now depleted 16A. I moved to a reasonable space. The train was pulling in when I glanced towards the stairs to the platform. It was packed, the wildebeest were coming back. I got on the train. Not the first on, I can’t push with arthritis in a limb, but I got a seat, the last seat. The train was packed, with the aisles full. In a miracle of shape shifting the wildebeest were now sardines.

That is how I got a seat on the train, thanks to herd mentality.

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