Wednesday 30 January 2008

Heuston, we have a problem!

“Are you right sir, we’re ready to board” said an urgent voice getting closer “you can take my arm”. “Thanks very much” replied the blind man, and then he reached out and linked the waiting arm. “I’m going to take you to the carriage at the front of the train” said the voice, calmer now, and they moved off slowly along the platform. A cocktail of smell invaded the blind man’s nostrils: first came the sweet smell of fresh diesel mingled with the toxic breath of burned diesel. Then a faint stink of track gore followed. “We’re nearly there now” the voice promised. “Great” replied the blind man.

As they neared the humming engines at the front, the voice said “we’re going left here, into the carriage”. They turned in, and the arm led the blind man to his seat. “you’re next to the door, facing forward” the voice assured “all the best now, have a safe journey”. “Thank you” the blind man replied. He heard the footsteps leaving the train and disovling into the background drone after a few seconds.

He took his little bag off his shoulder and opened it, briefly rummaging before finding his book. Before he opened it, he paused in wonderment as to why no other passengers had boarded. Perhaps they hadn’t been let through yet, and anyway he was at the front of the train. He opened his book at the mark, and his finger sensed out the top of the page, and he smoothly let it scan the brail, almost automatically. As he neared the end of the first paragraph, hisssssssssss, and the doors rattled shut. But no-one had boarded. Or had they? Would the doors reopen? The man amused himself in the thought that perhaps other passengers had entered in silence, in a bizarre conspiracy to freak him out. Suddenly the train pushed forward and started rolling. But, no-one had boarded? Had the voice led him to the right train? There cannot be an empty train going to Limerick? Maybe this was the wrong train and he was heading out to some garage where they’d park it up for the night? Hold on, maybe a few quiet passengers had sneaked in at the back of the carriage. He turned towards the back an listened. Nothing. “Excuse me?” he asked, hoping for a response. The darkness ignored him and the train trundled on gaining speed. Holy God he thought, and he tightened his grip on his book. No phone, he remembered.

Just then, the door between the carriages slammed open at the back. A deep laugh boomed forward and footsteps set out towards him. In an instant he decided the laugh wasn’t sinister. As he relaxed the grip on his book he noticed his palms were damp.

This is based on a true story reported in today's Irish Times. A wrong signal at Heuston sent the Limerick train off before the passengers had boarded. Only a single passenger, a blind man who had been led to his seat, had boarded. The rest of the passengers were left stranded and the train continued to Limerick. Confusion reigned for a while before the blunder was confirmed. Iarnród Éireann refused a full refund to the irate passnegers who had to make alternative arrangements. The company apologised and offered a 50% refund.


Vince said...

Well, realistically they were going to get 50% of a train and they had the pleasure of knowing that they would not have to stand to the Junction. But lord-a-love the chap with none of the expected sound. If you were alone on a train would your mind not race, mine would.

Sinéad said...

Tomaltach, I only discovered your comment during a random drawl through the spam folder - don't know why it caught snagged there.

Agreed, as Raymond Chandler said: "There are two types of writing, good and bad" and both apply to books and blogs.

WorldbyStom said...

That's some story! Mind you 50%... sort of mean...

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