I was late for office today and planned to catch the 9:31 train to work. There are two tracks in station I board in. One track goes Inbound to downtown Chicago - this is the one I catch. The other track is outbound which goes away from Chicago Downtown. I was waiting on the platform towards downtown. The new iPod excitement hadn't worn off and I was listening to Vettaiyadu full blast and wondering why such awesome songs and potentially-awesome movie can't get released.
As the clock ticked 9:31 the train became visible. The train was still very far away from the station. It was honking and doing its regular stuff. Suddenly an announcement came in the PA system. It said that the train would actually be arriving on the platform where trains going *away* from downtown would arrive. I wasn't terribly surprised. This happened day before yesterday and people just crossed over to the other platform. So out of sheer habit (as a result of 4 years of suburban train travel in Madras) or absent mindedness caused as a result of 'Vettaiyadu' music, I crossed the track and went to the other side. The train's honking noised increased manifold, I could sort of hear it inspite of the HJ music blaring in my ears. It was still far away. So I went to the other side leaned on the wall and waited for the train to come by. The train stopped and I saw some uniformed men coming towards the platform. I didn't care and I continued listening to "manjal veyil".
So one uniformed guy approached me and asked, "Did you just cross in front of us". I slowly removed my ear phones and said "excuse me". He said "I asked, did you just cross in front of us". I mean front of us is like a relative word. A loose term. Its like the Martians coming down to the earth and asking me "did you come between us and the sun". Well ofcourse we did, but you gotta be kidding. If this was Mambalam station, I crossed when the train was near Kodambakkam station. I mean, c'mon. Day before yesterday about 10 people crossed the tracks with me. I thought it was common. I said "yes".
And he said in a matter-of-fact way, "As a punishment, I wont let you get on this train. Catch the next train"
I am not sure if I was stunned or embarassed. Embarassed is a very good word to use here. I stood there and saw everybody get into the train leaving me out. I asked the conductor (I sort of know him, we've done small talk before) "are you kidding or are you serious" and he said in friendly tone "normally we wouldn't let you on Metra at all, but we are letting you go with a mild punishment. Don't ever do this again man.". It was like Joe banning Kramer from the fruit shop. It had been a long time since I was sent out of a class or in general banned. I frankly forgot my stock sheepish grin, I reserve for these moments. The prospect of walking back home was not appealing. My wife isn't in a very charitable mood these days. I wonder why? I walked home and she was on the phone with my parents and she lost no time in narrating the whole thing to them. Believe me, when you think it can't get any worse - it does get worse. So, I had to listen to a lot of commotion and "are you a villager" questions from my dad before walking out to catch the next train (which was at 10:10).
Like Seinfeld would say "you know George, this can only happen to you"