The Blog

I Was Late Home Last Night

That's the thing, isn't it? It's one thing to moan about the selfish bridge jumper when you're at the back of a three mile pile-up, but it's another thing when you have felt the very vehicle you are sitting in steamroller over flesh and bones.

I was late home last night.

I had just missed the quick train, but figured that the slow train would get me back quicker than the next quick train. It took a lot longer than expected. We had left Kings Cross, picked up a few more passengers at Finsbury Park, and then whizzed off through North London. We then heard a huge, prolonged rattling sound and felt our bodies pushed slightly forward as the driver applied the brakes. I had both my feet planted firmly on the floor, and I felt the vibrations of whatever was causing this sound. We ground to a standstill, and all the lights went off. An announcement came on the PA explaining what had happened. There then followed the usual grumblings from my fellow passengers about how late back we were going to be, before regular conversations resumed.

It soon turned out this train wasn't going anywhere.Two of my fellow passengers, a couple of Foster's swilling lads forced open the doors to have a couple of cheeky cigarettes. We were initially told that we would be taken further down the line towards Oakleigh Park, and from then on we would put onto another train back to our destinations.

Eventually, we were told that the front portion of the train - including the carriage at the front in which I was sitting - was damaged by the impact, and that we would have to move to the rear four carriages so they would fit an engine to the back and take us back to New Southgate. It had felt damaged; like I said, I could feel the impact quite strongly below my feet. Incidentally, New Southgate was the station where the impact had happened.

Oh, the message we received on the PA earlier?

"We apologise for the rather abrupt stopping of this service.

A human being has decided to jump in front of the train from the New Southgate bridge.

The emergency services are on their way to see what they can do."

It was an interesting use of the word "human being" from the driver, and I quite liked it. I don't mean I liked finding out it was an attempted suicide, that was awful; I mean I liked the driver telling it like it was. I think maybe helps frustrated commuters understand that it isn't a fallen branch or some leaves on the line that they are trying to clear: nor is it "some twat", or a "selfish prick." It's a human being, and the emergency services need to see what they can do.

It turns out there wasn't a lot they could do. Straight away I thought back to the impact, and I could have told them there wasn't a lot they could do. One of the lads jammed open the door for me so I could have a slightly morbid glance out at the tracks behind us where there was some activity. All I could really make out were some shadowy figures poking around in the damp and the darkness.

I'll be honest, hearing my travelling companion's grumblings upon hearing the news got my hackles up quite a bit. I know many people think it selfish when people decide to take their own lives in this manner; that they should consider the disruption they cause to commuters; that if they must take their own lives, they should do it with pills, or a noose, or an illegally procured firearm, or just from a quieter bridge with less traffic under it; that... blah blah blah. They also talk about it being the "easy way out," but I'm not sure this is the case. After tonight, I'm even more sure that if that last lonely journey from New Southgate bridge to the underside of the 21:35 to Royston is "the easy way out", then whatever preceded it must have been seriously fucking hard.

I don't really have much of a wider point to make here, except maybe this: I was slightly heartened when, during our hour long vigil inside the carriage, I saw a tiny bit of humanity emanating from the Fosters boys. It had happened in rather a roundabout way: I had described how it had felt - physically, in the soles of my feet - at the time of the impact, and my description seemed to take them aback. It was then that I realised that, as the stereotype of beer-swilling lads on the train home informs us, they both had their feet on the seats during the whole incident. Therefore, I was one of the few people in the carriage that had actually physically felt the impact.

And that's the thing, isn't it? It's one thing to moan about the selfish bridge jumper when you're at the back of a three mile pile-up, but it's another thing when you have felt the very vehicle you are sitting in steamroller over flesh and bones. That realisation had finally had an effect on these lads. Not a lot, but a bit: as if they had just been informed that a distant old auntie had passed away. This poor depressed human being possibly was someone's distant auntie or uncle. She or he was almost certainly someone that another human being was very fond of. What if it had been someone that you were fond of? Or even worse, if it had been your brother, your daughter, or one of your parents? Would you still be lining up to castigate them for their selfishness?

I was late home tonight. Tomorrow I have no doubt other people will be late for work, and the day after that, and the day after that. If you are one of those people late home or late for work, and that is your biggest worry that day, then you are a very very lucky human being indeed.

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