So What Does It Make Me?

There are many ways in which my wife and I are different. Fr’instance if we are driving on a road with two or more lanes and one of the lanes begins to disappear – the road narrows or there are road works or an accident so the outside lane, say, is merging into the one inside – she will signal and move into the inside lane as soon as the narrowing road becomes apparent. I, on the other hand, will continue until the last moment and merge only when I have to. I often express my frustration at people who block the narrowing lane, even though it has yet to run out as they wait to be allowed to merge. She considers it polite to move across as soon as; I believe it is a literal and metaphorical waste of space – nature abhors a vacuum and all that good stuff.

Today I was at an international cricket match – the world cup is being played in England and Wales and England played the West Indies in Southampton – with my son. We travelled there by train. The game finished early and we were shuttled back to the station to catch our next train. A lot of other people were planning on doing the same thing.

I immediately enter ‘train-strategy’ mood. The indicator sign was not yet showing our train so I had no indication of its length. Long experience of catching pubic transport after a major sporting fixture has taught me to head to one or other end of the platform, as far along as possible, if I want any chance of a seat. With the London tube the trains are a universal length – not so the overground railways where trains can be as short as two carriages and as long as twelve. Ours was likely to be between either and twelve so we headed for the front and the sign saying ‘8-10 car stop’ and watched the indicator board for our train to appear.

The platform began to fill. At our end the numbers were light and we were near the front of both train and platform crowd. Hope still reined.

Then the train came up on the board and the list of intermediate stations began scrolling through – these appears before the length of the train. Meanwhile the announcer informed us the train was approaching and it was …

Five carriages.

Cue swearing under the breath and a jostling back along the platform to the already crowded spot under the ‘2-5 car stop’ sign.

Son is reading the indicator board as I am watching the approaching train. At the same moment I realise the train is patently longer than five cars the indicator board shows it is ten cars long. Cue more swearing and an unseemly trot back to where we were moments before, juggling back-pack, phone, waterproof and all the other paraphernalia that is needed for the cricket.

We were one of a few who made the too and fro effort and were rewarded with seats facing front and next to each other. The crowds grew and the train filled but we were smug. We had seats!

As we settled back, lightly steaming from the effort, Son remarked that his mother wouldn’t have even bothered to walk to the front and just stayed where she entered the platform. If I had persuaded her to move to the front she wouldn’t have willingly involved herself in the constant frenetic movements back and forth. And if she had followed me and then ended up back where we started the acquisition of a seat would in no way have compensated for her sense of the futility of it all.

‘I’d have got a a seat anyway.’

‘But you might not have.’

‘And neither might you. And does it really matter?’

Just asking that question tells you no explanation will satisfy. We are yin and yang, chalk and cheese, night and day. I can no more enter a station when I know where the exit is at my destination station and not move up or down the platform so I will join the train at the spot nearest to where I will be leaving at my destination station than she can give a monkeys for whether she walks the same distance as me before or after she has joined or left the train.

She will rarely bother with a rat run because often it makes no difference to the journey and she’ll not know if it would have anyway. I will delight in complex circuitous journey plans that at least give me the illusion of constant movement.

She will sit in the driver’s seat and look at me.

‘Okay, which way do you want to go?’

I will profess indifference to the route.

She will wait for the truthful answer and when she has it follow that route.

We make a pretty good team really… but I still have the sense that I am being ridiculous. Is it me? A man thing? A mental health issue? A paranoia? A commonplace? Or is her studied indifference more wilful contrariness than a well worn tranquillity? And anyway, if it makes us, me happy….?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to So What Does It Make Me?

  1. Darlene says:

    Hubby and I are very, very different. I thought it was because we were raised in different countries but maybe not. As for driving, the rule is whoever is driving makes the driving decisions. I think too many marital disagreements happen in the car. We don’t often drive in the same car anyway! Looks like you two have it worked out.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Paula Light says:

    Agree with Darlene about the driving. Unless the driver is being unsafe, or asks for help, the passengers shouldn’t criticize. My parents fought so much in the car because of my mom constantly hassling my dad over his driving (which was perfect, just not to her taste).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is all very interesting. My last husband always had to be in line first or at least as close to first as he could get. I’m very laid back about the who thing. I’ve always trusted that I will be in the right place at the right time. If I don’t get on the train first, there is a reason I should not be there. It’s an intuitive thing that I think more women listen to than men do. We have an inner guidance system that many men block. You have it too but just don’t always acknowledge. I rarely comment on someone else’s driving unless they are starting to fall asleep at the wheel. The last husband was nearly blind and could not drive but insisted on telling me how. I offered many times to let him walk since I’d driven quite safely with not even a fender dent my entire driving life. The passenger always feels out of control so I often have to bite my tongue to keep quiet when I’m the passenger. On a train, life is a bit easier. I don’t know many couples that are not at odds about those kinds of things. Keeps us aware of each other.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      My mother used to drive dad mad by not saying anything but out of the corner of his eye he could see her knuckles going white as she gripped the seat. She’d been driving for 20 years with a HGV (lorry) licence by the time he learnt and he always felt inadequate..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m definitely a platform strategist and prowl up and down trying to get in the optimum spot. Mostly, though, I reserve a seat for train trips, much easier. Wish I was more like the Textiliste, though, in more ways than that(!).
    Glad the sun shone on your match in the afternoon.
    This is a very nice piece, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope the cricket was worth the stress 🙂 I don’t do trains. In narrowing lanes I move over soon after seeing the indication and let the blokes who roar past me in the ending lane push in because clearly they are far more important than anyone else on the road…… But you’re not one of those.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Funny in my case my daughter has the whole train thing figured out. On our recent trip I was content to stay put, but she had a whole strategy so I followed her down the tracks. I merge right away, like your wife. I did read recently though that traffic moves more efficiently if one waits to merge. Doesn’t seem right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Smith says:

    It’s a man thing. This is based on how you have described my husband’s behaviour so accurately. And he likes cricket.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21 says:

    It’s a man thing Geoff💜

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ritu says:

    As long as I have a seat… I don’t care!
    But Hubby… He’d rather not do trains!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The important thing is your acceptance of each other. 🙂


  11. At least we won the match

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pam Lazos says:

    I don’t think it’s a man thing — although I’m not sure about the mental health part — because I do the same thing. If one opportunity/project/line of thought seems blocked or if there’s a better way to get there, I take it, especially if it means I can keep moving. I wonder about my stasis = death mindset, but beyond that, I think I’m kind of normal, at least from someone’s similarly situated perspective. Then again…


  13. Widdershins says:

    I do the merge thing as soon as there’s a break in traffic, and don’t bother with the whole train/bus rushing thing. It’s not worth the stress. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lane merges are designed to use all the lanes up to the point of the merge for maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, most people think it rude not to merge as soon as they are notified a lane will be ending, which wreaks general havoc with the engineers’ calculations. I recently passed through a highway construction zone where there was no early warning of the merge, and it was the smoothest and quickest I’ve ever done.
    The other thing that messes with the designed operation of a merge are people who think it Extremely Virtuous to allow two or three cars to enter the lane rather than the customary one. What looks like a Good Deed for two people in front of them is rendered moot by the negative consequences it inflicts on the dozens in line behind them. So here we have a strange instance where perceived social niceties work against our best interests as travelers and members of civil society. Humans!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Definitely a man thing! I walk onto the platform and that’s where I’ll get on the train, if Jon’s with me, there’s a whole ‘strategy’ thing going on as to where we should stand, who we’ll beat to the train if we move a few paces to the East – Ughhh. Weird you men things are…

    Liked by 1 person

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