The train was already at the platform as I rushed down the steps at Leyton station. As soon as I reached the bottom step, the doors closed and I cursed every millisecond of delay which caused me to miss the train.
My anger intensified the closer the cause of delay was to the platform, and gradually dissipated moving away from the station. The outer limit of my anger just brushed those people getting off the number 69 bus and blocking the pavement as I approached the station. Anything beyond that bus stop was blame free.
Inside the station, I cursed the people queuing to buy tickets who stretched out halfway across the station lobby – although at the same time, I recognised their essential blamelessness and so my blame hopped over to the people who were responsible for positioning the ticket machines in that particular corner of the lobby. Again however, I understood that in deciding where to position the machines, these London Underground staff were forced to work within the confines of the architecture of a station built over a hundred and fifty years earlier – built by people who could not possibly have realised that on the 18th of July 2009 at about two o’clock in the afternoon, I would (as a direct result of their design) miss my train by less than a second.
No, I needed to find someone else to blame. Someone who was at least still alive. I had two choices: the elderly woman whose slow descent of the steps stopped me from dashing onto the train, or the person fiddling around with a paper ticket at the barrier. I’d feel a bit guilty blaming the elderly woman, so let’s go with the guy with the paper ticket. Who uses paper tickets these days anyway? But I could see he was struggling with his ticket even before I headed towards the barrier. Why didn’t I use a different one? If anyone is to blame here, it’s me.
I was still thinking all this as the train pulled away. Looking further up the track, I could already see the next train so knew I’d have less than a minute to wait. I began to walk along the platform. As I was going to Notting Hill Gate, I’d want to be at the back of the train anyway so I’d be closer to the exit when I got to the station.
I reached the other end of the platform at the exact same moment that the doors opened and I boarded the train and took a seat. The time it took me to walk the length of the platform precisely matched the gap between the two trains.
At Notting Hill Gate, I was the only person in my carriage to get off. As I did, a couple slowly walking hand in hand also reached the exit. They had obviously been on the previous train, probably in the carriage I would have been in had it not been for those milliseconds of delay. Those milliseconds of delay, which, in the end, made no difference to my day at all.