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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

Right now, I'm supposed to be sitting in a lecture room in LSE, listening to a French woman telling me how to study for my final exams, and giving me hints about what they're looking for in our last scary essay. This class is one of about 5 I'm attending in the next couple of weeks, in an attempt to pass my course. However, I'm sitting at home, reading Popbitch and listening to Jonathan Ross, with a headache induced from the embarrassment of crying in public. Let me tell you about my Saturday morning so far:

Woke up to the sound of He Who Only... leaving to go play cricket for the day. Lay in bed thinking of how much I want to stay in bed. Slouched out of bed, grumpy. Showered. Discovered headache. Threw things in bag. Left house.

I missed the train by about 2 seconds, so I sat on the ground, feet pulled under me, curled over my bag listening to Penn Jillette in an attempt to cheer myself up. Train arrived 15 minutes later, and I slumped on working out how big I was going to make my Starbucks take out, and deciding today was a double espresso day.

About 7 minutes into the journey, just as I was starting to cheer up, ticket inspectors arrived in my carriage. At that very moment I realised I didn't have my oyster card with me. I didn't have may credit cards or cash card with me. I didn't have my wallet with me. No purse. No change. Nothing.

The inspectors were, obviously, very suspicious of the fact that I claimed not to have a jot of ID on me at all, and not a penny in cash. I filled in their little form with my name and address, and they both threw me those looks of judgment inspectors give you, like boarding a train without a ticket is the same as coveting your neighbour's oxen. All I could think about was the fact that I had absolutely no money on me whatsoever.

He called up whatever place he calls up to clarify my address is real, spelled my surname down the phone to whoever he was talking to, and then his tone changed again, as I suddenly remembered I've already been caught before without a ticket - that time I forgot to put my weekly travel card on over the weekend - and he is now being told down the phone that I've put down a false address, because the Nest'O'Love doesn't appear on all databases yet, being a new building.

I'm starting to get a little anxious at this point. You can be slapped with a fine for £1,000 for your second offence. I wanted to go home to bed and hide under my duvet. I scrambled around in my bag and got my notebook out, in which I keep every piece of information I'll ever need, and showed them my oyster card number, but they weren't really interested, because suddenly I was looking like a more interesting case. He sternly started filling out his forms, and asked me again for ID. I told him again that my ID is with my oyster card, my credit cards, my purse, my wallet, my everything.

I started to panic then about how the hell I was going to get home, if I couldn't even pay for a ticket back from Liverpool Street, and at that point I gave in to the inevitable and started crying.

The classic female diversionary tactic, and not one that I whip out deliberately, but it's amazing what a few tears can do to dissolve any tension. His demeanour changed instantly, and I swear to you reader, he started flirting with me. A man who, moments before, had been about to give me a huge fine and a summons to Court, was now asking me if I'd be okay to get home, telling me which platform to go to, explaining to me the appeals procedure and asking me if I had a boyfriend, all at the same time. He was touching my upper arm in support, and I thought for a moment he was going to give me a hug. It was such a weird moment.

We got off the train, and he started telling me it wasn't his fault. He told me everything would be fine. He even walked me onto the train home.

I am deeply embarrassed to have started crying in that situation - it was a stupid mistake that I'd made because I'd been too fuzzy headed this morning to work out if I had everything with me, and it was easily rectifiable, because all I have to do is fill in a form and I shouldn't receive a fine, but they were being so strict with me while filling in the forms and giving me those looks that you'd usually reserve for people who spit in the street that I couldn't hold up under that pressure. I'm a grown woman, I shouldn't behave like that.

The power of shedding tears in front of strangers is amazing. He went from prosecutor to protector in one swift move. He even apologised for doing his job, and told me I was making him feel guilty. What a ludicrous morning.

UPDATE: The inspector called me at about 12.30pm to make sure that I got home okay. I must have been looking pretty hot round about when I was bawling my eyes out.


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