Jul 28 2009
The oddballs are out in force this morning. The DARTs have been getting quieter and quieter in the mornings, and therefore less eventful. Occasionally, we find our eardrums accosted by Spanish students on their way to a tour of Dublin’s sites, but mostly it’s just me and dwindling numbers of half-recognised faces ignoring each other, staring blankly out at the sea or buried deep in our books, phones, laptops.
This morning, had the sun not been shining in the sky I would have assumed it a full moon. We begin with Mr. Touch. I watched him board. He gently caressed the door frame. He did not just tip his hand off it or hold the frame for support. He ran his fingers and hand along both sides and the upper part of the door frame, as he stepped onto the train. Then he stood. He looked around the carriage. As I mentioned, it’s very quiet these days, so he had his pick of seats. I didn’t see what he was waiting for. Then he reached out and grabbed one of the bars people use for support when standing. With both hands he rubs the bar up and down, up and down, up and down. More than just me was staring, bewildered at this man’s disturbing ritual.
As he moved forward into the carriage I could see he was wearing trousers that were a few inches too small for him, odd socks (black and white) and a t-shirt that was about 4 sizes too big for him. It draped on him like a poncho. His jacked was old – it was a rain jacket, black and shiny. His telescopic glasses looked like they could identify individual grains of sand on the moon.
He finally chose a seat. Not beside me, thankfully, but in the next set of four seats. As he sat down, he touched everything. Again, he rubbed and caressed. His chair below his ass, the back of his seat behind him and then the wall behind him before settling on the window. For two stations, he just sat there head down, rubbing the window. A woman sitting across from him looked very worried – perhaps concerned that he might start rubbing her. He did not. Perhaps she wasn’t the right texture for him.
At Dalkey, another odd gent got on. He was elderly, but probably not as old as he looked. Short, extremely skinny and with two bugged eyes that more or less held banners out in front of him proclaiming “I am strange”. The banner toting eyeballs did not lie. He sat directly behind me, opposite a woman who was so engrossed in her copy of Let The Right One In that she didn’t even notice him sit down.
He immediately began apologising to her. Now, as far as I could see, he had not done anything to apologise for. He didn’t bump into her or knock over her bag, so she was understandably startled by his sorries. He kept saying it – “I’m very sorry, I’m sorry ma’am, I’m sorry, I’m very sorry” and she was baffled by him. She tried to calm him with her own incessant “it’s fine, it’s fine, don’t worry, it’s ok”, but it did no good. Eventually, he just quietened down. The apologies became a dull murmur and then a faint whisper and then they were gone.
But sadly for the young woman, that wasn’t the end of it. He quietly said, “excuse me ma’am, excuse me ma’am”. She had no choice but to respond. He was very quietly spoken and I couldn’t make out what he said. Neither could she it seemed, at first. I heard her say “oh, Sydney Parade? Yes, I’ll tell you”. Presumably he had asked her to let him know when he reached his stop. This was followed with another minute-long tirade of “thank you, thank you, thank you very much, thank you ma’am, thank you”. This too eventually dwindled and tapered off.
At Sydney Parade, she did her duty and told him it was his stop. He immediately began a new set of thank you’s and as the train pulled out of the station, we could see him staring back at her, still mouthing the words – “thank you ma’am”.
Is it a full moon tonight?