High Invisibility


(Matt Buck [CC / Flickr])

Brona expected the people getting off the 1812 from London Bridge to be frowning. Frowns were the one obligatory part of the rush hour uniform, matching a toolbox and a paint-stained track suit as well as they matched a Savile Row suit.

She expected the frowning horde to charge the three gates in the same orderly queues as the horde disgorged by the 1757 had formed and the horde delivered by the 1827 soon would. She expected them to frown past her without a second look because a woman in the Southern Rail high-vis jacket was a part of the station’s interior along with the public intercom that has last been answered on Brona’s last day at primary school or the anti-pigeon spikes on top of the dot matrix indicators of the trains that would soon arrive and the trains that had broken down and never would.

Brona expected someone to get their timing wrong while coming through the gates because someone always did. This time, it was a woman in a trouser suit who looked like a lawyer or a banker. She swiped her card at the middle gate just as the wheelie-bag of the man in front jammed sideways, forcing him to take the extra couple of seconds to turn it sideways that disrupted it took for the gates to snap shut immediately behind him.

The trouser suited woman’s frown darkened. She slapped her card on the reader with resignation that showed she knew it was pointless. No gate would open for the same card twice in a row however hard the card was slapped on the reader, and every commuter passing through the station knew it.

The frowns in the queue behind her darkened as the queues on either side of them flowed past unimpeded, presenting them with the sort of knife-edge dilemma that they hoped they’d left at work. Should they hold their place in the middle queue and endure the agony known only to a commuter watching someone else getting home faster than they were, or should they shuffle to the back of one of those freely flowing queues only to watch the gates reopen a moment later and the person who was now standing behind them gambol through them while they had a full twenty or maybe even thirty seconds of this new queue to endure.

Brona expected them to waver for around fifteen seconds before the first of them switched queues, and for frowns to turn to scowls if it took her twenty to get the gates open. She strode for the impacted queue, the frowning horde parting in front of her with the alacrity borne of knowing that not stepping aside quickly enough be to risk physical contact, which would oblige them to acknowledge her existence with a grunted ‘sorry’.

She had the gate open in twelve seconds and received the grunted thanks she expected from the woman in the trouser suit. She allowed the horde to bear her back to her place by the exit, once again becoming part of the architecture of the station.

A man heading from the exit stepped aside from the commuter flow to stand in front of her. “Thank you. I don’t know what we’d all do if you and your colleagues didn’t keep us all moving.”

Brona said, “That was unexpected”.

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Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

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