“Just like the man in the ad,” Damian thought to himself.
He saw the poster on the wall of the station as the train pulled away. It showed a man, not unlike Damian in appearance, choosing to stay in the relative calm and ease on the train instead of being reunited with his wife and child who were waiting for him on the platform.
Just like that man, Damian’s wife was waiting for him. Not on the platform of the station, of course, but she would be waiting for him to get home at the usual time. Only if she was already home from work by now herself, Damian conceded. Likewise, his daughter would be waiting for him. Probably. Actually, maybe not. Damian couldn’t be sure. His daughter was a few years older than the girl in the ad. She was reaching that age where Damian’s presence at home seemed to be an inconvenience to her, another small moment of embarrassment waiting to happen.
Well, wherever they were and whatever they were doing, Damien’s family could keep waiting for him. He wasn’t ready for the journey to end and so Damien decided, just like the man in the ad, that he was going to stay on the train. Here he was, sitting on the train as it pulled away from his stop. The rush Damien felt at this selfish act of individualism, that feeling drifted away and was rapidly replaced by regret.
Damien smiled awkwardly at the Ticket Inspector. Yes, he had heard the Inspector’s question. In fact, Damien saw the Inspector approach, knowing that he would need to explain himself. All he could think to do was smile. Damian produced his ticket and grimaced, waiting for the inevitable follow up questions.
“This says for Dundalk,” the Inspector noted.
“I…” Damien paused, hoping a better explanation would somehow present itself. “Eh, yeah… It is. I – I missed the stop, you see.”
Damian looked to the Inspector and the Inspector looked back at him, a mixture of bemusement and dissatisfaction. More of an explanation than that will be required, it would seem. Damian decided to be completely honest, hopeful for leniency at least if not some level of understanding.
“This is going to sound very silly…” he began.
“Go on,” the Inspector sighed, having already absorbed a lifetime’s supply of excuses over his years of service.
“Well,” Damian mumbled, “…you know that ad that’s running at the minute, that Irish Rail ad…”so good you won’t want to get off”, that ad…”
“I’m familiar with it, yes,” the Inspector replied.
Damian shook with a nervous tingle rattling through him. He couldn’t turn back now, past the point of no return.
“Well, you see… I’ve had a very, long day. I’m not in my right mind. That’s all it is, really. But, when we got to Dundalk, I…” Damian shrugs, “I didn’t want to get off the train.”
A crease formed on the Ticket Inspector’s brow as it furrowed, the brain behind it attempting to process the information it just received.
“That’s the story, is it?” the Inspector asked.
Damian nods at the Inspector, then drops his head in embarrassment, staring at the floor.
“Let me tell you a different story,” announced the Ticket Inspector. “It goes like this: If you do not have a valid ticket on board the train, you will have to pay a fixed penalty payment of €100 plus the unpaid fare.”
Damian winced. He thought of his wife, how frustrated she would be by now that he was running so late. He thought of his daughter, how mortified she would claim to be if she knew her father was fined for travelling without a valid ticket. Finally, Damian thought of the man in the ad. The man who sat back down, no problem at all. The man who abandoned his family on the platform with a simple shrug of his shoulders. The man who remained on the train without any consequence.
“It’s nothing like the man in the ad,” Damian thought to himself.