Up at 5 and at work by 6am. Still dark. Buses replacing trains on one of our lines.
People are complaining about the lack of toilets and, yes, one has been engaged for over ½ an hour. Two of us bang on the door and get no response except the smell of cigarette smoke. Given the danger of overdoses in station toilets, we take the plunge, warn the person we’re coming in and open the heavy toilet door. Someone is sprawled across the floor face down. Skinny bare ankles and feet.
“Oh God!” says my co-worker. “We’d better call the ambulance.” While she’s doing that, I push open the door again to check if there’s anything I can do. The body has rolled over into a fetal position, a single dark eye open, peering brightly out from under a coat.
“Can we help you? Do you need help?” We call. “Are you ok?”
There’s a cushion under the guy’s head. He mumbles, seems to be conscious. The situation has changed. We call off the Ambulance. We obviously have a rough sleeper.
The station Master arrives,
“Do you need help? You can’t sleep here. You have to get up.”
“If you don’t get out, we’ll have to call the police.”
The door slams and we stand in the corridor talking about calling the police. A minute later the door is flung open again and the three of us, all women are confronted by this huge angry man who screams at us…
“How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet! What sort of people are you to interrupt someone in the toilet? Don’t you know any better?” He’s huge and he’s yelling. At me, maybe because I’m the tallest of we three smallish women. “Stop smiling. How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet. What kind of people do that?” I feel a spark of terror because he’s really angry and big and it’s a small space. I call on my wireless for the ticket inspectors who are all men to come and give us back up.
The man slams the door again.
“We’re calling the cops,” says the Station Master as we retreat. But we don’t need to. A few minutes later, the man appears cushion under his arm and stalks off towards the trains.
“What sort of people interrupt a man in the toilet?” he mutters loudly enough to be heard all the way. Such wounded dignity.
It’s not yet dawn. The beginning of a 9 hour shift.