By the Seat of his Pants
He leapt up the stairs two at a time and launched himself onto the train – the sound of a whistle ringing in his ears. The doors closed behind him before he could change his mind. With a screech of metal the train pulled away from the platform, heading in the wrong direction. His heart pounded in his chest and not just as a result of his sudden exertion. He had intended to take his usual train to Victoria just as he did every work day – today an overwhelming urge to break from the norm poked at him. Before he could reason himself out of it he walked past the stairway to his usual platform and catapulted himself onto a southbound train.
He had to stand all the way to Gatwick and spent the 15 or so minutes thinking up explanations to offer up to a ticket inspector as to why he didn’t have the right ticket for the journey. He began to feel out of his depth and the gloom of regret was already tainting his spontaneous escape. With his back to the carriage he looked his reflection in the eye and silently calmed his mind, which was presently akin to a milk doused bowl of Rice Krispies. What had been the point if he was just going to waste the opportunity worrying. No. What he would do was take one obstacle at a time if and when it arose. First things first, contact work and call off the dogs.
At Gatwick the train emptied considerably and he was able to secure a seat for himself and his rucksack. There had been no one by to check tickets so far and he told himself that it was very unlikely that anyone would bother now. He eased into his seat and allowed himself time to watch the changing view. Rows of terraced houses left behind he was greeted by rolling fields and an eerie drifting mist. How to contact work? He would need to call soon otherwise they might try to call him at home. His signal was patchy and he didn’t want the line to drop out mid excuse. Besides the onboard announcement would scupper him if the train approached the next station. So as to maintain control he sent a text to one of his less stringent managers apologising profusely for the lack of an actual call and laying his pretend symptoms on thickly.
As the train rolled into Brighton station his enjoyment of the Victorian architecture was disrupted as he remembered that he was now going to have to make it through the ticket barrier without a ticket. He lingered on the train waiting for the other passengers to swarm the platform. Watching them out of the window he realised that many of them appeared to be students and dressed very casually compared to himself – he was suited and booted. Often at Victoria he had experienced the sensation of someone pushing in close as he went through the barrier. It had happened a couple of times before he realised that in the ensuing scrum a passenger sans ticket was piggybacking their way through. Clever really. Could he do the same? After all, he was camouflaged in that he looked like a business commuter – accusing eyes were much less likely to rest upon him.
Motivated once more he alighted the train and mingled with the swarm. Shuffling his way towards the barriers he began to look around for his prospective piggybacker. To his right a young guy in baggy jeans, hoodie and huge trainers reached into his pocket and took out a ticket-readying himself for freedom. Seizing the moment he sidled in behind him and kept just enough distance until the ticket zipped through the reader reappearing at the top. It was now or never. He shuffled faster, leaned in and was through. The young guy threw him a disgruntled look warning him to ‘back off’ and he raised his hand in a feable gesture of apology. Again his heart was pounding. Head up and walking purposefully towards the exit he told himself not to look back. Once outside he caught sight of the sea in the distance and began to giggle like a child-a reaction to his actions so far and his seaside adventures to come. The guy serving at the mobile coffee cart opposite caught his eye. “You OK mate. Need a coffee?” Checking his pockets for change first he smiled broadly “Yeah, why not. The day’s my own.”