I was in London last night for a work thing. We had dinner at a really hip Chinese restaurant in Soho called Hakkasan. It was a social evening and we were barely in time for an 1123 train, which is the last one of the night that doesn't stop 300 times on its way to MK. What luck, we thought.
My colleague, Kat, and I got settled and were killing time in conversation when I looked up and saw a portly gent, a bit ruddy of face, coming our way. On first glimpse he looked a bit preoccupied. He was wearing a sweatshirt, too baggy trousers, orthopedic shoes, and a wool trench.
He sat in one seat but something about it bugged him so he ended up sitting across the aisle from us. He was muttering a bit, and then I noticed him gently slapping his forehead. Hmmm, I thought. Methinks we have a nutter on the train.
Boy howdy, was I right. You know I couldn't continue my conversation without an eye on the whackjob...here is what I observed. In the 35 minutes between first seating and his disembarking the train he scared off two Japanese guys who were trying to have a conversation and a drunken YOB who was eating his Burger King (perhaps the most common sight on the night trains from London, FYI.) He had a pamphlet crushed in his sweaty fist, and he would periodically rustle the papers like they were whispering some coded message, then he would shout, "AH!" and make this whistley-puffing sound with a sharp outtake of breath. What I'd thought was merely "ruddy" was actually some sort of colossal rash...imagine a case of full-body eczema, or perhaps the worst case of poison ivy you could ever see. It's possible the itching was driving him to distraction. He was constantly scratching something....sometimes in an absent-minded, almost pensive way, at others in ferocious bursts of skin-breaking attacks. He would roll his trouser leg up, exposing his stocky, inflamed calf and would almost growl as he dug his nails into the pink puffy boils. Twice he yelled, "Pip Pip!" for no apparent reason. (Frankly, any yelling of "pip pip" seems unnecessary, but perhaps that's just me.)
Kat and I were on the brink of hysterics the entire ride home. When he finally got off in Leighton Buzzard the rest of the train heaved a collective sigh of relief. One guy even shouted a pip pip in his honour.