Makeshift semaphore makes me out of touch

Well, university is starting up again and today I had to go in to Edinburgh to see my Director of Studies. Essentially, I had to make the whole journey just so that he could basically click my name on his computer screen to confirm that I am indeed still me.

Anyway, this meant that I found myself on a busy train for the first time in roughly five months. You’d think I would know what I am doing on a train, but it’s always so complicated. All of the train etiquette is difficult to grasp. This is especially the case if, like me, you have all the social skills of a wooden spoon.

Should I offer my seat to a pregnant woman? Should I offer my seat to every woman because that’s the gentlemanly thing to do? Wouldn’t some women get offended if I offered them my seat for having boobs? Is it okay to sit at the table even though I don’t have to build a really important Meccano model that my boss wants me to finish by Wednesday? Am I a nosy bastard for wondering what the hell was going on next to me on the train today?

As I said, the train was quite busy — it’s one of the last chances to use your cheap day return in the afternoon and a lot of private school children use it aswell. I had no choice but to sit next to somebody, and I chose one lucky school pupil to sit beside.

Not soon afterwards another pupil came along, and gave the boy I was sitting next to a great big smirk. It was a strange smirk. She wasn’t just acknowledging his prescence. She was definitely communicating. She sat down on the opposite side to us and a row forward.

The ‘conversation’ continued. She gave him all sorts of glances and smiles and all that sort of thing, but I never heard a single word. It was clear that she was communicating with him. I guess I should have offered to give up my seat and asked if they wanted to sit next to each other. But that might have spoiled their fun communication-without-conversation game.

I tried to work out what was going on. You might think it was a bit rude of me to do this, but this wasn’t as though they were having a quiet conversation. The person was communicating using a series of conspicuous hand signals in a kind of makeshift semaphore right in front of my face.

I couldn’t see how the boy next to be was responding to the bizarre glances he was being given. That would have involved craning my head round to look at the boy’s responses and my cover would have been blown (because obviously ‘listening in’ to both sides of the ‘conversation’ is far more rude than listening to the one side). But I got the impression that the boy was completely ignoring her.

I didn’t have to feel like a right nosy so-and-so for long though, because after just five minutes the girl made one of her hand signals. It looked a bit like when people mime drinking from a pint glass, but at the same time it looked as though she was pointing down the carriage. After a pause (presumably waiting for some kind of response) she got up and walked about halfway down the carriage. She left a perfectly good seat and the rest of her journey was standing. And that was that.

What on earth was going on there? Maybe this is what all teenagers do these days, and I’m so out of touch now that I don’t realise it. I’ll never be down with the kids again. I’m so old but I’m only 20! What will it be like when I’m really, really ancient like 35?


  1. I’m really, really ancient like 35?

    OY! Really ancient? I can handle “old”, but ancient? 32 isn’t that far off 35, and, apart from when dealing with teens, I rarely feel that much older than most of my younger friends.

    Now people that are 40? They’re old.

    Teens always use weird signals. Given he was, apparently, ignoring her, maybe she wasn’t making sense to him either?

  2. […] Anyway, I don’t really see the point in walking slowly. Even if I know it will save my leg, it feels like such a waste of time. I absolutely hate it when I’m stuck behind a slowcoach on the pavement. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t because if I barge past them then that would be rude, but if I slow right down it’ll seem like I’m listening in to their conversation. Not that I ever do such a thing, of course. […]