I arrived back in Switzerland this afternoon, and stumbled into the first carriage I came to on the train for Lausanne.
It had been a long day. For a start, I’d gone to bed really late and then had to get up stupidly early to catch my lift with The Sister to Belfast, where I got an early morning bus to Dublin. Then there were the usual airport delays, and a cramped flight to Geneva, and now I was finally on a nice quiet train for the final part of my journey.
I sat back and relaxed, marvelling at how smoothly everything had gone for once. I was on time for everything, and I’d had no disasters, and I’d really impressed myself, if no one else, with how easily I switched back into French to buy my train ticket and give directions (hear that? Give directions!) to a lost man in the station. I am a cool, savvy and worldly-wise traveller. It felt good.
Plus I discovered that I was sitting in what turned out to be a Quiet Zone. No phones, headphones or noise in general was permitted. How fabulous is that? I’d never heard of such a concept on a train before, but I heartily approve.
I lay there, half-snoozing, looking out at my beloved Alps and lake and chalets, and feeling the warmth of the sunshine through the windows.
The ticket inspector didn’t make it into the Quiet Zone until we were very nearly in Lausanne. I presented him with my ticket. It was at this point that he pointed out that I was riding in a first class carriage, which was somewhat embarrassing, as I quite clearly had a second class ticket and, more generally, do not look even remotely like the sort of person who should be travelling in a first class carriage.
I blushed very deeply, and looked imploringly at him, hoping that he wasn’t going to fine me or have me arrested or throw me off the moving train or something dire like that. He didn’t – but he did tell me to follow him out of the first class section of the train. A little cloud of shame gathered over my hanging head as I picked up my belongings and flip-flopped sheepishly behind the ticket man, along the aisle of true first class passengers, all of whom were no doubt staring sternly and disgustedly at me.
The aisle went on for miles and miles. Miles and miles of rich, distinguished, disapproving stares, all the way to second class, where I was unceremoniously turfed into a corner next to some scruffy backpackers who were noisily playing cards, and an Italian housewife who was screaming rather hysterically into her phone.
I brushed some unidentifiable crumbs off my seat and slumped down, back amongst my own kind. Dreaming wistfully (and still with some embarrassment) of the first class carriage and the Quiet Zone.
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