The thing about travelling. You meet a lot of people. And sometimes you need to walk away. This is a bit hard when you're trapped on a four-day Sydney to Perth train trip. One of the guests took an instant dislike to me. Or rather to the fact I was a "freeloading" travel writer. On day two she hunted me down...
My thoughts quickly turn from the exalted as an armful of clanging bangles shatters my tranquillity. Suddenly Margot is upon me in a bedazzling, garish poncho.
I am moderately caffeinated but not sufficiently so to stave off another war of the words. She fashionista catwalks to my booth.
Her unblinking, soulless eyes come to rest on my 9 o’clock shadow and her pinched nostrils indicate disapproval, again.
I find myself explaining the complexities of shaving one’s face on a train. I was forced to abandon my chin to a schmear of unkempt fuzz.
Fear swamps me and my voice squeaks up an octave.
It’s “near impossible” I founder.
“You’re not married are you?”
I shake my head.
Her eyes admonish my mismatched socks and poly-blend sweater and unshaven face.
Of course he’s not married her eyes betray; he can’t even dress himself.
So I chuck her a quote she won’t possibly get and finally seize victory: “Wait till I put my beard aside, for that hath done no treason.”
Quick as a flash: “Thomas More, 1534” she says.
Margot takes a micro-sip of her macchiato and a devilish Mona Lisa half-smile caffeinates her face.
I contemplate a commando role through the plate glass. Surely at 80kmh I wouldn’t break all my bones.
Margot grimaces or smiles.
Sips her coffee.
“Mmmmmm,” she says.
I’m not sure if it’s a statement or a question but I sip too and assure her my latte is tremendous.
I get up to leave but . . .
“I would have a word,” she says.
It turns out to be many words and each carefully selected for my acute discomfort, beginning with: “when not being puffed by a journalist, do you think this train trip is value for money?”
“I haven’t really considered it in those terms,” I lie.
“Well perhaps you should. Readers want their money’s worth.”
And she stands with her hand on her hip waiting for me to consider it.
"Instead I consider the intricacies of my financial diarrhoea and my total inability to save money."
Instead I consider the intricacies of my financial diarrhoea and my total inability to save money.
Most writers are much better with letters than they are with numbers, I explain.
My pathetic attempt to make oblique amends for being a sponsored travel writer is futile and I follow it up with the somewhat beige: “Umm . . . well, I suppose it’s hard to put a dollar value on an experience like this.
I’m about to answer when the train shunts violently and Margot, her inquisition, her trans-seasonal ironic art smock and most of her macchiato end up in a heap in the booth opposite.
And I’m off. Chivalry is dead. Margot murdered it. I flick a backward glance at the carnage. She’s thrown a
shoe and is covered in coffee but otherwise intact.
I don’t look back.
I flee to my cabin and pull the blind.