Keeping on a demure track


THAT'S MEN:I am waiting in a train station where two men are arguing. One is small, old, dapper, wearing a suit and gloves and carrying a silver-handled cane. The other is much younger, in a tracksuit and runners. They are facing up to each other. The young man is arguing vehemently. The old man is glaring at him, sometimes going up on his toes to make himself bigger. The whole station is watching, including a cross looking security guard slumped in a chair.

Still arguing, the two men join a queue and buy a ticket. The woman behind them stands well back. The younger man has a plastic bag and the older man takes it and inspects the contents with interest. They go into the Gents.

After what seems like a long time they come out. The younger man is drinking from a bottle of wine. The cross security guard accosts them and tells them to leave. They protest that they have a ticket for the train. “Sit down and behave yourselves and keep your mouth shut,” the security guard tells them.

They sit down. Now the old man has the bottle of wine. Suddenly he does not seem dapper any more, just dishevelled. The security guard tells him to stop drinking the wine. An argument. They are told again to leave. They leave. They come back. The bottle is inside the plastic bag now. They remonstrate incoherently with the security guard or, rather, the younger man remonstrates incoherently while the old man remonstrates quietly but with much waving of arms.

Now the security guard is offering to fight the younger man, going into a boxing pose and dancing on his toes like Katie Taylor. The younger man ignores the offer. An extremely large and even more cross security guard arrives.

He tells the old man and the younger man to leave. They leave. Within minutes, the old man comes back alone and sits down holding the plastic bag and looks completely lost. The cross security guard looks tired and fed up and leaves well enough alone.

I go to the train. I see the younger man is sitting across the passageway from me. He rolls a joint. He wanders off the train. He gets onto the train on the other platform. He comes back onto my train and sits down again.

He lights the joint and inquires if the train is going to a certain place. He doesn’t understand any of the answers people give. He is out of his head. A man tells him to put out the joint. He goes off to another carriage.

We leave. At the station where we have to change he gets off and falls around the platform. When I get onto the next train he is, needless to say, in my carriage.

I give him a wide berth and he gets off at his station or, rather, he is no longer in my carriage when we leave the station. Relief.

He could have avoided all that trouble over the wine back in the original station if he had followed the example of a demure young lady on the train the previous day. When her boyfriend handed her a can of cider, she poured the contents into a large, Supermacs cardboard container and drank it through a straw, thus preserving her demureness. She repeated the exercise on a second can. As far as the casual observer was concerned, the boyfriend was getting through a lot of cider while his fair companion stuck to soft drinks. That’s the way to do it.

PADRAIG O'MORAIN( is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His book, Light Mind - Mindfulness for Daily Living, is published by Veritas. His monthly mindfulness newsletter is available free by email.

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