The work day is over, my train is on time, and on my lap is a copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s new book. I’m looking forward to a nice, quiet train ride home.
The man across me seems to have decided it will not be so. He is looking for something in his brown leather shoulder bag, rather noisily. He’s wearing a fancy navy blue suit, and his shoes look carefully polished. He appears happy, and excited about something. Maybe he’s a member of one of the winning parties of yesterday’s elections? After all, this is a train from The Hague, where it all happens, politically speaking.
He is wildly taking things out of the bag. A pile of papers. An apple. A Jip&Janneke lunch box. ( his kid’s?) A phone. Pens. Then he finds what he needs, “Ah!” he exclaims. “Oh no!” I think. It’s a bottle of men’s perfume. I don’t recognise it, but soon get an overdose of its scent when he sprays it on himself in generous quantities. Ugh.
I try to focus on my book. Mr. Perfume across me puts his stuff back into his bag, except for his phone. He looks for a number and brings the phone to his ear.
“Hi hun, it’s me. I’m going to be late tonight.”
He sighs. “Yeah, sorry, but the trains are all delayed. It’s a mess. Again.”
Huh? My eyebrow lifts. Our train is not delayed. There weren’t any problems on other tracks when we left either.
“No, don’t think I’ll make it home for dinner. No, definitely not. It will take at least 2 hours to get anywhere now.”
Where does he plan on travelling then, I wonder.
I can’t hear the exact words “hun” is using on the other end of the line, but she now speaks louder and sounds disappointed.
“Yeah, I feel bad too, but it’s those bloody trains…”
“No, I’ll be fine, I’ll grab something at the station, no worries.”
“Yeah, I will. See you later.”
I have given up on my book and am checking train schedules on my phone. There aren’t any delays. At least I will be home in time for dinner.
Mr. Perfume makes another call.
“Hey darling, it’s me.”
“Yep, I can! I will be with you in about 10 minutes!”
 Jip&Janneke are figures from a Dutch children’s book.
Dit was de 3e opdracht in de MatadorU Travel Writing course.