This is just a little one. I was on a massively crammed train, going from London to Leeds. It was about two hours late. As a result, about three people’s worth of trains were on one. People had lost their reservations, people were standing in the aisles, people were late, people were pissed. (It was also January. People do not like January at the best of times.)
The whole situation was set up to be an uncomfortable, people-hating angerfest. I plugged my headphones in, trying to retreat from the bickering nomadic drama, and nestled down in my chair (somehow, I had a chair. I have NO idea how I managed to wrangle that). I didn’t turn any music on. The headphones were more for show. I wanted to try and sleep.
That is, until I heard this guy.
“Good evening, rattled passenger friends,” the voice said. “Mostly I will be giving you useful information on this tannoy system, but for now, I just wanted to soothe you with my dulcet tones.”
‘This guy’ was our chief train conductor – at least, that was his official title. I like to think of him as one of the happiest men I’ve ever met. He managed to turn a train crammed full of enraged, unhappy people into about 15 carriages worth of laughing, patient ones. This train conductor skipped up and down between us, portly but with all the deftness of a sly cat, joking with passengers and getting them teas and asking them about where they were going and telling them how cute their kids were. This train conductor sang. He punched through tickets while faking immense drama, sweeping his ticket puncher back and going “papow!” when spiking through them (at least, I think it was fake drama. He could easily have just been that flamboyant, though).
This guy announced locations with unmatched fervour and buoyed us along with much-needed positivity. He was a dab hand at puns (something I’ve always liked in a person). He joked about baldness a lot. I discovered that night that people love bald jokes. They laughed and laughed and laughed. We all forgot how late we were. By the end, I’m pretty sure we kind of all wanted to stay on the train.
It sounds like a small thing – but it wasn’t. This guy was magic. A person who manages to change the mood of hundreds of people by their optimistic spirit alone is not one to be trifled with.
This guy may well have been Derren Brown in a padded-out morph suit. But whoever he is, and wherever he is – he’s a rare legend, and I’m not likely to forget him.