It’s not the most convincing explanation I can come up with – and probably very unlikely – but I am somewhat perplexed all the same. The train has come to a grinding halt – in the middle of nowhere – and the conductor has just explained that we have hit a big bird causing the air pipes to fracture. The air is leaking meaning we can’t generate a brake, meaning we aren’t moving.
“Seriously Dad. What kind of bird can cause a fracture of the air brake pipe?” Asks my son.
I still believe the only plausible answer is the pterodactyl.
It’s not been a great journey. When you are dragging your 11-year old son on a four-hour trek to Manchester, you really want the journey to go without a hiccup. Giant birds notwithstanding, the journey has been stop-start all the way, due to the flooding. I look out of the window and we are encircled with water. I feel like I am sat on Noah’s Ark.
The animals went in two by two…well all except the bird!
Noah’s Ark was built by amateurs and stood the test of time. This train was built by experts and is just stood. There’s a lesson to be learned here: somewhere. As I look around the carriages everyone seems fairly happy. Outside it is dark and wet. Inside the toilet doesn’t work and we are amenity-less. Earlier, the conductor had told us that he had a wonderful selection of hot and cold drinks. I asked him for a cup of tea and he told me that he didn’t have tea. So, instead, I decided to get stuck into the wide selection of cold drinks. I had a choice of water – still or sparkling – I was a lucky boy. I decided to turn down his offer of water. Not because I was sick of the sight of it, but because there were no working toilets on the train and I didn’t want to be caught pissing in the bin.
But despite the lack of amenities, and the fact that I am stranded in the middle of nowhere, I can’t help but smile, a smile that has been slapped onto my face by the conductor. A man whose job it is to make sure that everyone has a ticket. Oh, and to take abuse from passengers who like to blame him for the fact that birds the size of Ostriches like to crash into trains and fracture air pipes. He has even been blamed for the flooding. I am just waiting for the signaling failure to kick in and he can have that one as well.
“The next station stop will be Stoke-on-Trent…but we will be renaming it Stoke-in-the-Trent if this rain doesn’t stop.” Is just one of the priceless gems that he has delivered over the tannoy.
I know this man has taken a lot of abuse today because I have heard it during my journey down the train trying to find a working toilet. But despite all of the grief, despite the fact that he too is delayed, and despite the fact that the weather outside is as shitty to him as it is to us, he keeps us laughing and entertained. That is not his job. His job is to collect the fares. He doesn’t get paid one cent more by making our mess easier by applying laughter to the equation.
This man is a great example of a Linchpin. Somebody who chooses to make themselves indispensable by going above and beyond the call of duty. He is going that extra mile and he is not afraid to break a sweat doing so. He is also proving that by putting that extra effort in, he is also enjoying his job so much more. This guy is not putting on an act. This is how he is, and because of the way he is I forgot all about the dead bird, the fractured air pipe, the bag of piss that was about to explode from my lap and the rain outside.
Instead I smiled.
Do you know somebody who is a Linchpin? Somebody who goes beyond and above the call of duty? Please share your stories with us.
Photo courtesy of Steven Polunsky (cc @ flickr.com)