in which your author encounters someone not so nice in ireland
15.01.2011 - 15.01.2011 40 °F
I write from the back of a train headed back from Greystones to Dublin, figuring this would be a good spot to put together the story of Saturday’s escapade on the train, which I alluded to in my last entry. Buckle your seat belts, folks.
Jo and Tom kindly dropped me at the Leixlip station (leaving them with a copy of this CD for their troubles), and I waited about twenty minutes in the light drizzle, catching a breath and aware of my newfound solitary-ness after the long week surrounded by vibrant and creative people. I get on the train, maybe 40% occupied, and nestle into a double corner seat, my backpack on the right seat, myself, my laptop bag, my camera bag, and a trash bag containing two pairs of wet jeans all wedged in underneath and around me. I’m tired and have about a 30 minute ride before transferring at Connolly Station to catch a train to Greystones, so I make like an experienced traveler and hook an arm around my backpack, laptop, and camera straps, dial up a nice Mozart Piano Concerto on my iPod, and settle in.
About five minutes into my slumber, I’m awakened by a tug on my backpack. A ruddy and swollen-faced man, maybe early 30s (going on 50) has taken my backpack off the seat and dropped it in the center of the aisle. He plops himself down on the adjacent seat, wedging me into the corner, without acknowledging the backpack maneuver. Well… THAT’S odd, I sleepily think, a bit confused as to why this is necessary when there appear to be plenty of open seats. He begins talking with the two people across the aisle from him, so I figure he’s a friend of theirs and wanted to sit next to them. He asks me in a thick, slurred brogue “Is dis yerr bag herre?” Bit of a dumb question, but I nod yeah, and he hoists it up to the storage space above. What a kind fellow. He lands back down in the seat, and I'm assaulted by the unmistakably strong scent of liquor and cheap cologne. My camera bag is stuffed behind me, which with an extra seat wasn’t uncomfortable, but with Stinks of Liquor Man now taking up the extra space has become very cramped. After about two minutes of sitting there wedged in uncomfortably, I see an open double seat across the way and decide to get up and move, giving up my seat and letting Stinks of Liquor Man carry on with his friends. I calmly say, “Sorry, I’m just gonna move to that seat over there, man.” He lets me out, and I move across to the corner of the train car. No big deal, right?
Well… apparently this was a big deal to SOL Man, who takes my motions verrrry personally and within a minute starts passively complaining to everyone in the immediate area. There’s an elderly couple sitting in front of me. He approaches the man, extends a crooked hand and blathers “You peoples arr nice… but this guy (points to me)… nooobody likes him.” There are about ten people in our area. No one says anything. He sits and continues, sending his voice to me: “Was aye not good enouff to sit wid, man?” At first I ignore him, not wanting to give him reason to continue. He keeps asking, and people are starting to get really uncomfortable. I finally respond calmly: “No, man, I have long legs, I just wanted to have enough room.” He gets up and approaches me in my corner: “Ohhhh… Am I not good enough to sit witch, man? Issere somethan the mather with mee?” He’s building up steam. He stands up and points to my bag in the storage space above. “Is this herre yer rucksack?” “Yeah.” He pulls it down and violently chucks it at me full on from three aisles away. I catch it. He’s comes up to me quickly, now very close, standing, and I’m cornered in my seat. For a few seconds I’m convinced he’s about to take a swing at me, and my brain is firing on all cylinders planning what to do.
Somehow… THANK GOD… he doesn’t swing. Backing off, he devises a new tactic: “How boutchu come back over herr an sitch wid me again. Comon man.” At this point I stand up; though he looks a practiced brawler, I’m bigger than he is and try to convey to him the sense that although I’m not going to engage, I’m also not going to make the easiest target to pick a fight with. I stand there at the end of the train car in a bit of a faceoff, me at my seat, him maybe ten feet away at his, and consider announcing “If anyone has any advice for me in this situation, I’d love to hear it.” Everybody squirms in their seat but all are stonefaced. “Comon man, I’m nauhtthat bad a guyee. Come sit wit me here.” I respond gently, but firmly, “Tell ya what, man. I am just going to… Stand. Right. Here.”
He sits down and I make my move, swiftly passing him for the opposite end of the train, trying to create some distance, but I’m carrying four bags so I’m not the most graceful sight. Not surprisingly, he gets up and lumbers after me. Mind you, the train is moving and there’s no place to go. The people on the opposite end of the train surely have been watching with interest, and seem not terribly excited that the action is now coming their way. I position myself behind a pole, so that if he takes a swing he’d have to get it past a bit of metal as well. He approaches and puts out his left hand to shake mine; I keep the pole between his right hand and my body.
“Whididye have to get upp an embarrass me like dat in fronn of me mates like dat, man? I’m not a bad guyee, I’m not.” “No, no, not at all, you seem great (lying); I just wanted some space for my legs.” “But eyy jus had a few pints for me brotherr’s burrthday last night ya know.” He's retreating on his anger a bit. I’m talking him down. “Oh yeah, did you have a good time?” “O yah it was grand. But can ye come over therr and tell me mates dat I’m not a bad guyee, can ye?” I sense the train is about to make a stop. “No, I’m getting off here, man, have a nice day, cheers.” I run outside the train and make a mad dash to get on the next car before the train moves again. I push the button, get on, and walk to the opposite end facing my original car so that in case SOL Man decides to cross in between I can see him coming.
At the next stop a horde of people get on coming from a rugby match, and a father and son sit across from me. For the first time in about 15 minutes, I feel safe; there’s too many people around for him to bother with me. The father and son are friendly and I tell them the story. Though my heart is still pounding madly, it’s nice to encounter normal people and they’re in great spirits (Leinster won handily), and we talk about America. I get off at Connolly Station to make my transfer, and look behind me and there he is, barreling toward the exit ramp about 20 feet behind me. But I don’t think he saw me behind the crowd of people? I run up some stairs and find a security officer and briefly explain the situation; mostly so that if SOL Man attacks me on the platform at least someone will have an idea of what’s going on and not have both of us thrown in the clink. I ask for directions to my platform and cross over to the same platform I just got off at, but enough time has passed that my adversary is gone. Some nice elderly ladies confirm that the next train will take me to Greystones. I get on and watch the gorgeous Irish Sea pass by, thanking my lucky stars that I found the wherewithal to withhold what could have been a really nasty situation. For the next hour, I can smell the scent of cheap cologne on my hand.
Solo travelers, be forewarned: KEEP YERR WITS ABOUTCHYE!!!