The first potential issue I’ve noticed with this honourable quest is that I, like most if not all regular commuters, am a creature of habit and tend to favour the same journey every day as much as I possibly can. Same train, same carriage, sometimes even same seat. I don’t go to the lengths of reserving seats, liking to live by the seat of my pants and the risk of sitting in a different seat every day (when it’s possible to get a seat of course) but I do almost always travel in Carriage A without fail.
Carriage A, for those not familiar with FGW’s carriage labelling scheme, is the “quiet carriage” in the standard class section of a HST. The reason I prefer this supposed haven of tranquillity is exactly that, the chances of having a quiet and peaceful journey are at least increased if not guaranteed. And of course, if you do decide to tell noisy others to pipe-down you have got the law and righteousness on your side.
In the mornings the quiet carriage really is quiet, an almost library like location of solitude and calm with only the odd hushed rustlings of the odd newspaper and the odd clearing of the odd throat to break the silence. However the later in the day you seem to travel the noisier the carriage seems to get so by the time you’re on a late evening train all the other travellers seem to have thought “sod this” and are chatting, music-ing and phoning as in any of the other carriages.
I therefore didn't have much hope of a quiet time when catching the 23:30 Bristol Temple Meads service from Paddington on a Thursday evening after another legendary BGC Oranges and Lemons night out. The reality though turned out to be an almost deserted carriage with a guaranteed double seat all to myself and only the muted murmurings of some woman who couldn't resist a phone call to disturb me. One over exaggerated cough soon put paid to that and the rest of the journey was in peace and quiet until the Train Manager (the Hispanic sounding one who sometimes does my morning train – I must try to get some names) did a ticket check and it turned out that the bloke opposite Miss Telephone had a ticket for an earlier service and would have to pay for a new ticket. Miss Telephone’s boyfriend then thought he’d help the situation by discussing (I can’t use the word “arguing” as this was much too civilised) whether Mr Wrong Ticket could pay the difference between the two fares to which the TM said that that could only be done at a ticket office. This all went round and round in a rather pointless loop until Mr Wrong Ticket played what he no doubt hoped was a trump card. “Aww, it’s my birthday today as well….”
As I stood up to leave his debit card was in the machine………Many Happy Returns!