Train Didn’t Stop at Dundalk

I must have had a reputation for collecting odd stories for a long time. This is one of my favorites recently rediscovered as a clipping in my attic someone had sent me, but no indication of who sent it, or where it came from, or even the name of the author. Not even a publication date, but probably sometime around 1980. It deserves to live on, so I am re-publishing it here. Dundalk is in Ireland. I tried my best to re-type it accurately, just as originally published, words and punctuation, no matter how wrong I thought they were.

“This friend of mine, a nice young married man with three children and not given to telling tales, got on the Belfast train last Friday to go to Dundalk, bought a ticket for Dundalk at the pay-desk and, minding his own business, sat down on a corner seat to read the morning paper.

DIDN’T STOP

“He was doing fine until the train got out somewhere approaching Balbriggan when the ticket collector came along and asked to see his, so he showed it and the collector said that there was additional to pay on it as it would only take him to Dundalk. Whereupon my friend said he was only going to Dundalk, so everything was in order.

“To his utter astonishment, the collector said that the train didn’t stop at Dundalk that morning since it was Friday, and the train never stops at Dundalk on Friday. So my friend said that he had bought a ticket to Dundalk, and he was getting off there because that’s where his business lay. So the collector, nice and quiet-like, said that he was sorry, but the train didn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays, and there was nothing he could do about it.

“My friend said he’d jolly well HAVE to do something about it because he had to get off at Dundalk, and that was that, so he’d better take the matter to a higher court, if there was one. So the collector said that all he could do was refer him to the guard, who was the boss of the train, although he knew it wouldn’t do any good—the train didn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays.

“By now they were past Balbriggan and they trudged all the way back down the swaying train to the guard’s van, where the collector said, “Hello Mick, we have a slight problem: this young man has a ticket to Dundalk and wants to get off there.” So the guard said sorry, but the train doesn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays—hasn’t done so for over 15 years.

“And my friend, trying VERY hard to keep up the civility, said that it was totally essential that he get to Dundalk that morning—in fact, that was the precise reason he had taken the train, instead of driving, because he had a most urgent business meeting there, and if he didn’t make it, his job would be up the spout.

“So the guard said he sympathized, but the train just didn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays, and there was nothing he could do about it. However, just to make the position quite clear, they would have a word with the driver.

“So they shuffled their way right up through the swaying and weaving carriages again to the driver’s compartment, and going through Drogheda, my friend explained all over again that he had to get off at Dundalk.

“Whereupon the driver said, sorry, but the train didn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays, and it was more than his job was worth to try and do so. So I think my friend saw red a bit then threw a real bit of a tantrum, to such an extent that the driver, guard, and collector, standing there in the driver’s compartment, got a little afraid of him.

“So the driver said look, I’ll tell you what I’ll do, since you’re in such a fix: I can’t stop at Dundalk because the train doesn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays, but if you’d like to take the risk, I’ll SLOW DOWN SLIGHTLY going through, and you can jump for it.

“In desperation, my friend agreed to do this, and they explained that when jumping, he must start a running-motion in mid-air with his legs BEFORE hitting the platform, otherwise he’d fall and do himself an injury: the idea is to be actually running FASTER in mid-air with your legs before you hit the platform, and then slow down gradually.

“So my friend, who’s fairly fit, said he understood perfectly and he’d take a chance on it—he had, of course, no luggage at all. And they all impressed on him that he should tell no one because it was most irregular and the train, officially, didn’t stop at Dundalk on Fridays.

BACK AGAIN

“So he waited at the door of the compartment, and going through Dundalk, the driver, true to his word, slowed down to about 15 miles an hour, and my friend jumped: pumping his legs up and down for all he was worth, he hit the platform feet first, and so fast was he going he actually started to out-run the train and was passing it out along the platform.

“And a stupid twit about four compartments down looked out and saw him running, opened the door of the carriage, yanked my friend off his feet by the scruff of the neck, hauled him into the carriage, plunked him down safely in a corner seat and said:

“You know you’re very lucky to catch this train: IT DOESN’T STOP IN DUNDALK ON FRIDAYS!”

“Disgraceful, isn’t it?”

-oOo-

This is not how I would word it, and especially not how I would punctuate it, but perhaps that is good. If I was anywhere close, I would love to go to Dundalk (but not on a Friday).

RWalck@Verizon.net

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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