With my long distance and long commute times, flexibilities at home are maxed out. Flexibilities are now so strained that there’s no room left for further movement, either in time or space.
A delayed or missed train means that I won’t be in time to get to the daycare centre before closing time, or I’ll miss the exciting department meeting at work. My timings and movements are closely meshed with my wife’s who’s also got a tight schedule with her work and her travel.
But here’s the thing. Today there has been an upset. Actually it started on Tuesday thanks to a horrendous train delay. Train delays are bad enough anyway, but in Holland they’re crazy. You simply get kicked out of the train and get left stranded with no information. “This train doesn’t go any further. Get off.”
I got home 2.5 hours late, and crucially my girls were already in bed and tucked up for the night. They weren’t awake when I gave them their goodnight kisses; I wasn’t there when they needed me to be.
The impact has shuffled onwards through the week. Yesterday some cretin in his big car pulled out across the cycle lane and I needed to slam on my anchors; I couldn’t move around him as there were oncoming bikes in the other direction. Needless to say I felt obliged to kick the side of his car and let him know what a prick he was.
And he looked at me as though it was my fault. That I shouldn’t have been there.
And walking back to the station at the end of the day I managed to trip over a concrete slab the builders nicely left on the pavement. Yeah, I should have been looking of course, but I was focussed on getting to the train station on time, but it shouldn’t have been there. It could have been embarrassing, me rolling around on the floor in the early stages of rush hour, but at least my doppelgänger was in front of me and didn’t see it.
I’ve written in the past about my doppelgänger – and made the comment that he and I seem to have also synchronised with our train times, favourite seats on the train and places to park our bikes. It’s an awkward synergy, much like when your toilet trips in the pub get synchronised with a complete stranger, but I think over the course of the last year we’ve now both somehow got used to it, silently ignoring each other but keeping the other under close surveillance and making up stories about each other.
So now I’m convinced he’s got a dodgy knee. I damaged mine some years ago when a large single cylinder motorbike backfired when I was kick-starting it. Admittedly it’s mostly OK now, but every now and then, like when I climb a mountain (not many of those in Holland…) or cycle quickly (to avoid my doppelgänger slipstreaming me), a few twinges remind me it’s there.
And now he’s caught up. He’s got an electric bike now which means he doesn’t need to slipstream me (and I certainly can’t pedal fast enough to stay in front of him), so he regularly overtakes me and zooms on ahead. But why? After he’s parked his bike he walks the final 100 meters or so to the train station.
It’s so slow it’s like a taunt which says “Even though I’m not in a rush, you cycle so slowly I still overtook you. And yes, I saw you fall over yesterday.”
So I reckon he’s got a dodgy knee too, needs the electric bike to help rest it, and walks slowly as it’s too painful to do anything otherwise. He surely didn’t hurt it turning a key on an electric bike (or however you start them); or maybe he fell over somewhere and landed badly.
So this morning something strange happened and it sums up the accumulative effects from the delayed train on Tuesday which has me displaced in time. The displacement means that today I came to work early so that I can leave early and collect my girls and spend some time with them tonight and make up for Tuesday. And here it is: my doppelgänger was on the same early train – he’s early too. I walked behind him from the station to the bike shelter, overtaking him about halfway, and paying particular attention to the concrete slab which was now no longer where it was yesterday. As if it had never been there…but I know!
I unlock my bike and head for the turnstile out of the shelter. There’s only one, and it serves as both entrance and exit so at busy times there’s an unwritten rule of alternating people coming in and going out. It’s my turn. I put my bike in the slot in the ground and look up to check it’s clear. It’s not – there in front of me, is him.
He holds up a hand, signalling that he’s waiting for me. I swipe my card, the turnstile opens, and I walk through. You’re welcome! he nods, and I nod back.
After over a year of ignoring each other, contact has been made! A public acknowledgement of each other’s existence!
And I’m worried that we’re going to blow away into non-existence like matter does with anti-matter. It’s already happened at least once before.
You know what’s weird? When the train on Tuesday stopped and we got kicked out…it was at the station where the doppelgänger gets off.
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