ACCIDENTAL RAILJOB

Which one would you choose?

Sitting in your climate controlled car but crawling bumper to bumper in gridlocked traffic. ETA unknown.

Or…

Packed like sardines in an overcrowded train carriage with a broken thermostat. ETA dependent on the weather.

Neither? You work from home? You don’t need work? Your money grows on trees? I so so envy you.

If you’re like me and have to join the masses for the commute, and have chosen the train then you have my commiseration.

Why? Train rides are the worst; stifling heat from the masses in contained areas; recycled air filled with germs from hacking coughs and projectile sneezing; someone constantly sniffling or snorting their gunk; unpleasant smells. Let’s not forget the awkwardness of having someone in your personal space.

On my latest commute, the train system was in shambles due to track damage. This meant hordes of people converged on the platforms to get a coveted position in the carriages. I end up pushed along until I’m right in front of the disabled seats. I am standing so close to this seated woman that it borders on indecent. Being vertically challenged, my hand immediately skims the nearby handrails to hold myself upright. It’s prime real estate. I ready myself in a warrior stance to avoid toppling with the jerky movements of the train.

Not wanting to stare at the woman in my direct line of sight, I shift my gaze to people in the carriage. I’m immediately assaulted with the sight of a man oddly rubbing his phone on the thigh, incessantly, for what feels like an unseemly amount of time. He must really want a clean phone screen.

Feeling a bit perturbed, I look away and catch the sight of a woman putting on a full face of makeup. I’m amazed at her ability to put on eyeliner without stabbing herself in the eye. On a good day, I look like I’m playing a solo game of Twister against the mirror so I can’t imagine adding movement to that conundrum.

More people shuffle into the carriage. I take a deep fortifying breath. Regret courses through me when I take a whiff of body odour from the armpits of the man standing beside me. I’m just at the right height for maximum damage. I shuffle and do a one-eighty degree turn only to have a mouth breather in my face.

As I’m having my moment of existential crisis, I’m become aware of the feeling of material rubbing against my knuckles and glance down.

“What the fudging hell?”

A giant man is standing near me, his crotch leaning against the handrail, which just so happened to have my hand wrapped around it. The swaying movement of the train meant that I was giving this giant a railjob. I look up and continued looking up till I reach the man’s face. I can feel myself blushing. He hasn’t noticed. I try to discreetly move my hand but it’s jammed. It ain’t going anywhere.

“Ahem!” Nothing. Nada.

“Ahem! Ahem! Argh!” I say with more emphasis.

The man looks curiously down at me. I direct my gaze to the hostage situation and glance back to him. He jerks away from the rails and gives me an apologetic smile.

I give an involuntary shudder. I’m going to have to bleach my eyes and scrub my knuckles after this particular train ride.

The train doors open. My stop. I push and shove my way past the crowd to get through in time. The cool air hits my face, offering immediate respite. I take a breather.

You know that saying…do a good deed every day?

I think I reached my quota.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THE SILVER LINING OF BEING AWKWARD

Humans are social creatures. It’s important for us to feel a sense of belonging. This fundamental need drives us to seek company; to form meaningful relationships with others; to engage in conversation. Essentially, we seek to make a human connection. A disconnect can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.

I struggled with my sense of identity and belonging throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was an extremely introverted child and shied away from people. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate and therefore, I found it difficult to make friends.

As a grown-ass adult, conversation still doesn’t come easily for me. Unfortunately, I’m also awkward as f#@k. Random sh!t just comes out of my pie hole. On the outside, I might look aloof and confident but on the inside, I’m a jumbled mess of insecurities that could rival that of a fifteen-year-old teenager. My six-year-old daughter has more pizzazz and social skills than I do. It’s really embarrassing. Luckily my friends accept me for who I am, flaws and all.

Recently, I met a mother of a child in the same swimming class as Mandy.

“Hello,” I say to the woman sitting next to me.

She gives me a welcoming smile and asks, “Which one is your child?”

“Oh Mandy,” I say, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I roll my eyes. She has a few minutes until class and still manages to get in trouble.

“You’ve got a lively one there,” she laughs.

I giggle. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy is my Little Miss Independent.

Lisa, the woman, is a talker. This suits me just fine as it prevents any outbreaks of verbal diarrhoea.

“Breanna does choir, ballet and swimming on Saturdays. She does Japanese, tennis and piano during the school week.”

“Oh Mandy does piano,” I cut in. It’s been a while since I contributed to this conversation and I don’t want to look like I’m uninterested.

“Yes, piano is so good for the brain. Breanna has done it for a few years now. She’s excelling at the moment. Did you know that music makes children smarter? I’ve listened to classical music since Breanna was in my tummy.”

Lisa rambles on and on. I don’t think she’s paused since we started talking. How does she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.

I give a noncommittal grunt as I watch Mandy attempt breast stroke. I’m so proud that she’s giving it a go.

“And of course, I had to speak to her teacher about the girl not inviting Breanna to her party. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”

I realise I’ve zoned out and give a mental heave to refocus on what Lisa is saying.

Does she realise she’s monopolising the conversation? Is she a nervous chatterer? Is it possible that someone is more socially inept than me?

Our girls hop out of the pool and rush over to get dried. Lisa is still talking. I hear ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connects some imaginary dots.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” I reply, stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.

Lisa gives me a wary expression and leaves.

“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asks me, confused.

“Lisa asked me to go for a coffee next time she sees me,” I say, a little uncertainly.

“No she didn’t,” Mandy scrunches her brow. “She said she needed a coffee next time, and she said see you.”

“Oh.” That explains the weird look then.

Yes, I’m socially awkward. Yes, I say random things. Silver linings people. I’m pretty awesome at listening… most of the time.

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BASKET CASE

I’m in Struggletown. Have you heard of it? I’ve been there ever since entering parenthood and found myself in a chronic state of sleep deprivation. Thought I was a transient visitor but I’ve unwittingly become a local tenant. On occasion, I’ve forced myself outside its’ boundaries but ultimately, I stay entrapped within.

I often wonder what I’d surrender for a good night’s sleep (I’m talking deeper than the Mariana Trench sleep), and I’ve decided that I’d offer just about anything….money (who needs it!), fame (I’ve got none), coffee (*shrug* maybe I’ll become a tea sommelier). That’s how much I value my sleep.

As a mother of a toddler who likes to torture me by being awake during the wee hours of the morning, sleep for me is a wild-goose chase.

So it comes as no surprise that I constantly find myself in unfavourable situations. It’s almost expected of Struggletown residents.

On one unfortunate morning, my synapses must have misfired because it wasn’t until we were all strapped in the car and my hands resting on the steering wheel that I realised something was amiss.

“Where the heck are the car keys?!” I say aloud.

I pat down my pockets, I look in bags, I check that I’m not sitting on them and then the panic sets in. We have fifteen minutes until the school bell rings.

I get out of the car and sigh with relief that I left the garage door unlocked. There are some advantages with being absent-minded. I call forth my inner zen and aimlessly look around the house. They’re not in the usual place on the dining table. A quick glance at the time tells me there is only ten mins left. I do not want to get a late pass. That’s just a slippery slope.

“Mandy! Help me find the keys or we’ll be late!” I yell.

Mandy goes off to her bedroom to look for the keys. Why they’d be there I’m not sure. I don’t question the logic of a six-year-old.

Henry is just running around, hands in the air and making head noises, accurately mimicking my panicked thoughts.

I’ve looked everywhere. In my frenzy, I overturn the washing basket. I cringe at the mess. I spent all last night folding those damn clothes. Such a wasted effort.

I finally find the wretched keys inside my shoes by the door. I blame Henry’s fondness for posting.

We race to school. Mandy and I run for class. I’m struggling with Henry on one arm and Mandy’s school bag on the other. Those darn bags are so heavy they could be used as weights.

“Mum! The bell’s going!!” Mandy exclaims.

“Run faster then! We’re almost there!” I puff out.

Sweat trickles down my back and my face is flushed. I’m a bloody mess. Exercise and I just aren’t friends.

Mandy zips through just as Ms Frean is closing the classroom door.

“Almost too late Mandy,” Ms Frean admonishes.

So what was the life lesson here?

Car keys are never in the washing basket so don’t overturn them.

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