Being the people who annoy us

THURSDAY, 6 JUNE 2013

Yesterday, I was “that person” on the Gautrain: the one on the platform at the airport who does not wait until all the passengers have disembarked before he enters the train with his huge pieces of luggage.

It is not that I am rude as a rule. It is just the moment when the train came to a halt and the first few people had disembarked, I went into Kaohsiung MRT mode: when the outbound traffic start thinning out, you take a gap.

The moment I stepped into the train, I realised that the airport is the last stop: everyone had to disembark before the next group of passengers was allowed to enter.

It was inevitable that someone, red in the face from exasperation, would stop in his tracks to lecture me. “Wait for everyone to get off!” the man yelled at me. “The train isn’t going anywhere! You’ll all get a chance!”

My “whatever” response was unconvincing. I knew that I had committed an error of behaviour that made me that person who annoys everyone else on a train, especially one like the Gautrain when it makes its last stop at a busy station like the airport. I was the person for whom I myself have clicked my tongue and have given a dirty look.

The thought then popped into my head that in the opinion of the guy with the red face I am certainly a one-dimensional character. I am “The Jerk Who Does Not Wait”. If he really had to think about it, he would probably have acknowledged thinking of me as someone spending his days annoying people. Or that I walk around the airport all day waiting for the train to arrive so that I can inflame the emotions of men with red faces even more by blocking their exit with my huge luggage. Either that, or I evaporate like condensation the moment I have performed my regular rude act.

At Sandton Station, I waited for a few other people to disembark before getting off. Because I had to catch another train to Rosebank, I had another chance to show that I knew how to enter a train like a civilised person.

When the train to Rosebank arrived a few minutes later at a different platform, I hung back. The train doors opened … but before a single passenger had a chance to get out, a young woman stormed the open door.

“How rude,” I muttered. And as my cheeks flamed up with indignation, I wondered how long it would take for the woman to evaporate.

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