Travel Voyeur: The Burning Train

Wiktor hasn’t moved for an hour. Or more accurately his eyes haven’t glanced away from staring out of the window of the Intercity train taking him, myself and three other passengers in our carriage from Warsaw to Łódź. Wiktor was sitting on the seat next to the window, I was opposite on the other side. His name really isn’t Wiktor, it was a random polish name I came up with as I needed something more than just that bald bearded serial killer looking guy and Wiktor just popped into my head. Between us was Barbara, a matured brunette woman who was unfortunately sat opposite Wiktor. I don’t think they looked at each other once. Also in the carriage was Alan and Jackie. They were Polish despite the English names I had christened them with. Alan had a moustache, his wife was named Jackie because she really honestly looked like a blonde, white, female Jackie Chan. It was uncanny the resemblance. All of us were uncomfortable. It was extremely hot in the carriage, I actually took off my jacket as my body was burning up. When a breeze passed through and hit us all in the face cooling our sweat, we all, except Wiktor, felt a little welcomed relief.

I hadn’t been on a train for long time so the experience was a bit annoying. Three and a half hours prior, after exploring Warsaw for good part of the day, I got myself to the train station ready to get to Łódź. It was 15:00 and I knew there was a 15:30 train that I could catch. Then I saw the queue for the ticket counter. I thought only the English like to queue. I saw no machines to enable oneself to purchase a ticket self service so joined the queue. Finally got to the counter and of course I would get the miserable agent who couldn’t speak English and was annoyed I was speaking English. She prompted me for the 15:30 train, bearing in mind it was now 15:28. I shook my head and said “No, next one”, while trying to wiggle my fingers hoping I’m symbolising the notion of “next one please”. She wrote on a piece of paper, 17:30. I gave her the thumbs up, paid up, said thanks and got the obligatory look of disgust back in return. Two hours quickly went by walking around the shopping mall next to the station, but not before seeing downstairs there were self service ticket machines. What was the point putting them there when you have the main ticket counter in the main hall and vasts amount of space! Rolling my eyes, and once again on my return, I waited on the platform.

The train itself was not like I was used to, with seats arranged like an airplane in pairs with a central aisle. Instead there were cubicles with two pairs of four facing each other. Cosy. At the start of the journey I thought it was going to be just myself and Wiktor, then a very attractive young blonde girl came in. She sat opposite Wiktor and within two minutes she left. Either she really did think Wiktor was the serial killer type and didn’t fancy playing the inevitable game of footsie with him or she was scared of my hairy arms I am now exposing due to taking my jacket off. I prefer to think it was the former. Shame.

Throughout the journey of awkwardness, Alan and Jackie were communicating with each other. Well, Alan wanted to sleep and Jackie’s form of communication was to give Alan a nudge with her feet to get him to keep putting the window down. I could sense Alan was apprehensive because at the start of the journey it was quite a bit down but in the single occasion of Wiktor’s movement he pulled it up. Alan for sure did not want to upset him. That was clear. So poor Alan at each stop got up, put the window down, sat down, we all closed our eyes, except Wiktor, enjoying the briefest of momentary breeze. As we got going again Alan got back up to put the window back up again. There were seven stops on the hour and half journey.

Time went by pretty quickly, I caught up on some writing, including this very article and we were approaching the last and final stop. Wiktor, five minutes prior finally moved. We all looked as he got up, grabbed his luggage and left the carriage. For some reason all of us, including Barbara (almost forgot about her), appeared to be relieved. I know this because we all visibly relaxed and sighed. Alan moved next to Jackie now seemingly cheerful, when she asked me where I was from. After smiling and replying back England, she smiled and said, “Oh okay. I’m sorry I thought you were one of my medical students, they are from everywhere.” Oh Jackie you made my day, you think I look young enough to be a student! Jesting in return, “Unfortunately my student days were a very long time ago!”. We laughed, including Alan. Hoping Barbara did too. She went through a lot on this journey, forced to look out the window for a straight hour and half and keeping her feet close to her all so she did not do anything to disturb Wiktor.

Stepping off the train I mused that I would have to do this all over again back to Warsaw to catch my flight home. I gently smiled at the thought of what characters will accompany me then. Peace&Love.

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