Things started off well enough, better than expected in fact, because I had scored the aisle seat facing forward in a “quad”, which is comprised of two sets of seats facing each other with a small table between them. My borderline claustrophobic tendencies make this my favorite kind of seat on the train, and it’s even nicer if the window-seat next to me remains empty for the whole trip. But the Quiet Car is so popular in the mornings that this is rarely the case. Even if I get the whole bench to myself from Malmö to Lund, someone invariable squeezes in between me, the window and the table for the ride from Lund to Landskrona.
But Friday morning I appeared to have hit the jackpot. The window seat next to me remained empty as we left Lund, so I stretched out luxuriously into the space. We weren’t five minutes out of the station when a somewhat scruffy looking man stumbled into the Quiet Car. I did not immediately assume he was drunk, because it was only 7:30 a.m., the train was moving, and he was carrying both a large bag and a coat, but regardless I knew he was headed for the empty seat next to me.
Well, it turns out inebriated would have been preferable to this guy’s actual condition, which was “hadn’t showered or washed his clothes since 1987.” Seriously, the green fog emanating from him was so foul that my gag reflex actually kicked in as he squeezed past me to get to the window seat. I wanted to flee immediately, but at this point it was standing-room-only on the train. So I just leaned out into the aisle as far as I could without falling out of my seat an breathed through my mouth.
But in spite of being sickened by the stench, as well as slightly concerned that the parasites that were surely homesteading on his person were taking advantage of the close quarters to move to a better neighborhood, I kind of felt sorry for the guy. I started concocting all kinds of scenarios for why he came to be in that condition, and began thinking about how he probably had all of his worldly possessions in the big bag he was carrying.
But boy was I ever surprised when one of those possessions turned out to be a very expensive Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guide to Florence & Tuscany. I didn’t have the heart (or the stomach) to tell him that he was totally on the wrong train.