Wednesday 7 July 2010

We're sorry for the inconvenience

Scene I

On the concourse of a station platform. A few passengers shuffle about moving towards benches to sit down. Others mill around trying to work out whether the train that they want is cancelled or delayed. Dunnings, Emma and Tom T stand together on the platform; all carry small overnight bags.

Dunnings: (Authoritatively) Right, I want to get this clear from the start. We are ambassadors from the North this week. A beacon of - er, northerness - representing , er, the north, at this annual company conference in London.

Tom T: Yaaaaaaaaawwww! (Rubs his eyes) That why you locked Dave in the storeroom then before we left?

Dunnings: Yep. I've left Andy strict instructions not to let him out until after we're well and truly gone. He's as trapped as a piece of double-sided sticky tape which has accidentally wandered into a fluffy jumper factory. Given his ability to cause unexpected trouble at fifty paces, I thought it would be prudent that we didn't have him along to show us up as being just sad northern muppets.

Emma: (Somewhat confused) But I thought we were complete muppets?

Dunnings: You may be, but I certainly am not.

Tom T: That's not what the Fire brigade thought when you got drunk at the last staff party.

Emma: (Sighs) Oh yeah, I remember. You'd just broken your own personal drinking best by finishing your first pint of Lager and not fallen over and decided to celebrate by challenging Tom T to a seriously devastating farting competition.

Dunnings: (reminiscing) We spent the next four days replacing cracked window panes. The local residents thought the gas main had ruptured.

Emma: (Continuing matter-of-factly) By the time the Firemen turned up in gas masks, you were so far gone you thought they were gatecrashers from Mars.

Before this line of conversation stands any chance of continuing any further, a tannoy clicks on, echoing static, and an announcers voice sounds Dunnings, Emma and Tom T mill around, not particularly paying any specific attention. Neither do any of the other passengers in the background.

Announcer: (Coughs and clears his throat. Speaks in dull monotone) Awright intrepid travellers, what's going down then? Anything and everything perhaps with the exception of the next train to Wigan, which you may have noticed isn't. Network Conrail would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the state of the toilets; this is only because patrons will insist on using them. We do not come round to your house and crap in your lav, so we would appreciate it if you refrained from crapping in ours. There is still a lack of bogroll in cubicle five, put that's just tough for the poor sod still tapping for help in there. As for the rest of you, you might be surprised to learn that the next train to London will actually be arriving on time at platform 3. It will be stopping at lots of places on the way, but do you really think we'd be useful and tell you information like that? Cha, as if!

Tannoy clicks off, Just as a long train rumbles into the station.

Scene II

Inside of a carriage on the train. It is completely empty.

Dunnings enters the coach, followed by a bored looking Emma and Tom T.

Dunnings: (He intently checks off the numbers on the three tickets he is holding with those on the seats) Right, everybody look out for our reserved seats. They're in coach 'L' but it isn't clear where that is.

Clearly frustrated, partly as the train is as good as empty, Emma and Tom T look at each other before sitting down in the nearest seats with a table.

Dunnings: (Realising the others aren't following, he walks back to them with an exasperated look) Wait a minute; we've got reserved seats! (He waves the tickets at them) I've spent an extra £3 on these, and I want to get value for money.

Emma: (Takes the reservation tickets from Dunnings, and stuffs them into the nearest ashtray) Lighten up, will you. This is the Railways for heaven's sake. Even you should know it's better value for money being mugged.

They are interrupted as a tall bloke with greasy tied back hair and a T-shirt advertising a dubious hard rock band staggers towards them from the next carriage. He carries a plain white carrier bag filled with what appear to be Beer cans.

Gary: (Sounds "not completely with it". Upon reaching where they are sat, he stops and sways for a moment) Peace Dudes (Makes a 'Peace' sign with his left hand) Er, anybody else sat here Dudes?

Dunnings: (Glances up and down the empty carriage, before replying as sarcastically as he can) Oooo, I think you might be in luck here. I can see it's as crowded as Newark public loos when diarrhoea's in town, but you should be able to squeeze in.

Gary: (Pleased look on his face) Great Dudes! (Turns to call down the carriage in the direction he came) Wayne! Through here! I've managed to find us a couple of seats.

Dunnings is clearly looking more and more worried. This isn't helped as a long-haired and bearded Hell's-Angels type wanders in from the next coach and slowly eases into the seat opposite him.

Dunnings: (Ultra-cautious, never taking his eyes off the new arrival sat watching him) So, er, how far are you two going?

Gary: All the way, dude. All the way to Croydon.

Dunnings: (Groans, extremely disappointed) Oh, Great!

Gary: Yeah, dude. It's a cool place is Croydon. Got an atmosphere like God himself lives there…

Tom T: What. There's lots of old bearded guys wandering around with 'holier-than-thou' attitude?

(Pauses a moment, reconsidering)

Although, actually; if they really all were God, then I suppose they would have a pretty legitimate reason for being 'holier-than-thou' (Pause) mainly because they would be.

Gary: (Lowers the tone of his voice conspiratorially) Between you and me, I think that Jesus lives in the flat above me. (Nods, looking pleased with himself)

Dunnings: (Scornfully) I think if Jesus had himself a nice little holiday Penthouse with en suite and Jacuzzi, it would not be in Croydon.

Tom T: I'd have to agree with you there Mr D.

Dunnings: (Looks smug that for once some-one is on his side)

Tom T: (Continuing) I'm sure that if Jesus was trolling the market for a holiday home, he'd choose Blackpool instead. Sun, sea, sand. It's got everything.

Dunnings: (Stops looking smug, and turns rapidly to Tom T) And whose side do you think you're on? One more daft comment from you, and I'll be forced to introduce your face to Mr Baseball bat. Got it?

Tom T: (Nods Hurriedly) Yes Mr D. Certainly Mr D.

Gary: (Confused) How can you be sure Jesus doesn't live in Croydon?

Emma: Take it as being just a hunch. Mr D. has lots of them. From time to time they may even turn out to be right. I'm afraid that much as I hate to say it, my money's on Mr D. for this one.

Gary: Oh.

Emma: (To Dunnings) I'd go easy on these two, otherwise you might just knock the pink elephants out of the bottom of their slightly wacky lives.

Wayne: (interupting unexpectedly) Er, would you like a drink? (Rustles his plastic bag) I came prepared for the occasion just in case.

Tom T: Well, if you're offering, I'll have…

Wayne: (Hurriedly interupts him) No, no. Hold on.

(Puts his hands to his forehead, and closes his eyes.)

I'm telepathic. Don't say a word - I shall quickly and efficiently know what you want without you needing to say a word.

(He begins to hum as if in some sort of trance, swaying a little from side to side)

Gary: This dude is good. Once he predicted it would rain one evening when the weather dude on TV said it was going to be warm and dry. And it really chucked, I can tell you. Pretty good, huh?

Dunnings: Well that's hardly a great acheivement. 98% of the population are able to achieve the same reliable knack of knowing it will do the opposite of the weather forecast.

Wayne: (Continues humming dubiously)

Gary: He always knows instinctively what drink I want at Rock concerts when he makes the trip to the bar.

Dunnings Well that's not exactly difficult considering the only drink they ever serve at concerts is yellow liquid with gas in.

Gary: (Deflated) Oh, yeah, now you come to mention it…

Wayne: Getting your choice of drink now (Hums dubiously)

Dunnings: He's so far gone, they could persuade him to say yes to going onto Oprah, to be reunited with thirteen love children he never knew he had.

Gary: He definitely said 'Sodium Tetrahydridoborate'. (Leans forward and nods seriously)

Tom T: (Unconvinced) When?

Gary: Last February or March for certain.

Dunnings: Have you ever visited Earth? (Pause) I hear their particular plane of reality has quite an edge to it.

Gary: Whoa! Sounds pretty radical dude. Any particular airline do flights out there?

Wayne: (Jumps up, interrupting and grabbing everyone's attention)

I've got it! You would like a PiƱa Colada laced with Vodka, Gin, Goats milk and those twisty liquorice Allsorts that always get left in the bottom of the box after all the rest have been scoffed.

Tom T: Actually, I just fancied a Beer, if you've got one.

Wayne: (Fishes in the bag) Lucky you are 'cos Beers is all we got.

(Beers get pulled out and handed around)

Emma: (Sarcastic) Absolutely amazing. And there's me expecting for your next trick to be able to hold a three-way conversation with Elvis and Jimmy Hendrix.

Gary: Don't be silly dudette, those guys are back in the last carriage jamming with Glen Miller and Kurt Cobain. Wouldn't wanna interrupt 'em.

The conversation is interrupted again, as the carriage judders, and the train clearly begins to slow down.

Gary: Hey! Are we there already?

Emma: (Peers out of the window) No. Can't see what the hold up is though. I think the train's just stopped in the middle of nowhere.

Tom T: (Stands up to get a better view through the window) Looks like a rough area.

Dunnings: (Also looking out of the window) Yes; it's not often you see kids trying to pinch wheels from moving vehicles. Or more to the point; trying to pinch the wheels from moving vehicles and doing quite well at it.

Wayne: Hey! D'yer think the train might have broken…

Gary: (Interrupts hurriedly) Hey man, don't let him say it!

Tom T: (Yawns) Say what?

Wayne: He doesn't want me to say the train's broken down dude. Everytime I say it, it happens. Pretty radical, huh?

The lights flicker, and suddenly the engine noise of the train stops completely

Gary: (To Tom T) Whoa man, you blew it. You killed the train, man.

Dunnings: (To Tom T) Come here.

Tom T: (Moves into the aisle alongside Dunnings) Yes Mr D?

Dunnings: (Stands up) What do you get if you let the Space Cadets tempt fate to come dump on us?

Tom T: Er, I don't really know…

Dunnings: A Smack in the face.

Tom T: (Confused) Is that supposed to be a punchline, Mr D?

Dunnings: Nope. This is. (Punches Tom T)

Tom T: (Doubles up, clutching his nose) Oooo, that hurt.

Dunnings: Good.

Gary: (Laughing) Hey duder, excellent gag. Really funny.

Dunnings: Oh good. Well I'm glad I've found a way to appeal to the simpler minds of society. How about this one?

(Boots Tom T on his arse, sending him sprawling)

(To Gary) Any better for you?

Gary: (Calming down) Er, not quite as good as before, man. Sort of lost its touch a little bit somehow…

Tom T: (Protesting from the floor) But it might have broken down anyway.

Emma: You still had to let him say it, though.

The conversation is interrupted yet again, only this time by a scruffy looking ticket inspector who cruises into the carriage.

Inspector: (Surprised) Oh! My Word! I didn't expect there to be people here.

Emma: But this is a passenger train.

Inspector: Yes, I know that, but it is after all a Network Conrail train that you are dicing with here. I'd have thought the parallel is obvious.

Gary: So are you saying that Network Conrail is crap, dude?

Inspector: (Excited) The man's a genius, got it in one! Give the lucky Gentleman a Cigar.

Dunnings: At least spend more than 30 seconds in his company before you start trying to brandish him a genius. In his case it's practically a defamation of character.

Inspector: Oh right. (Dawn of recognition) He's a bit of a walking Wonderbra then.

Emma: (Confused) Eh?

Inspector: (Ignores her, continuing on a tangent as he notices Tom T on the floor for the first time and looks on critically)

Oh! What happened to him then - or at least his hair. Accident with a Lawnmower was it? My would have been on the Lawnmower having come off the better.

Tom T: (Protesting) I'll have you know I go to a very good Barber.

Inspector: Ah, so your Barber attacked you with a Lawnmower then. What on Earth did you say to him to provoke such a savage attack?

Tom T: (Confused, but still protesting) No, no, it wasn't the Barber…

Inspector: (Interrupting) Oh, so you attacked the Lawnmower with your Barber then. (Pause) Wasn't your Barber a bit unhappy at being used as a blunt instrument? I know I would be.

Tom T: (Stands open mouthed, utterly confused)

Emma: (Takes advantage of the moment by changing the subject)

(To the Inspector) Why has the train stopped?

Inspector: (Innocently) The Train?

Dunnings: Yes, the big heavy metal object that we are all in at the moment.

Inspector: (Logic Clicks) Oh; it's a Train we're on then. I thought there was something odd about this aeroplane.

(Looks around at the walls, tapping them gently as if they might not exist.) Normally I would notice these things straight away, but today they must have changed something. (Sniffs the air) I think it's because the normal smell's gone. Doesn't have that stale urine smell when you walk in that it usually has.

Emma: That's probably because Mr Dunnings didn't bring his Dad with him.

Dunnings: (Interrupts) Don't talk about my Dad that way. I'll have you know he's actually a… a… (Stalls, trying to think of the right word)

Gary: Complete Git?

Dunnings: (Deflatedly sighs) Yeah, that's my Dad.

Emma: You remember the presentation evening they gave you for 20 long year service with the company?

Dunnings: (Cringes) Only too well. Everything's going well and I'm preparing myself to give the after award speech to an expectant crowd, then he cruises in and announces to all present: "Sorry, I think I've come to the wrong presentation evening; the guy I know is a complete arsehole".

Gary: Whoa dude, that's like really heavy. But I sort of know what you mean. When I was a kid, I was always frightened of my Dad, trying not to let on to him I was smoking the wacky on the side. Then one day, he walks in, and there I was rolling the biggest spliff you ever saw, and nowhere to hide, oh man!

Tom T: (Grimaces) Oooo, I can just imagine what it was like.

Gary: (Goes glassy-eyed as he recalls the moment) Oh no, you can't. Man this spliff was huge; I practically needed scaffolding to hold that beauty together. It was the art of engineering, and I was the site engineer and site owner.

Dunnings: (Irritated slightly) That wasn't what he meant. What did your Dad do?

Gary: Just cruises straight over and ripped that baby apart. (noticeably shudders. There is a brief pause before he continues) Turns out I'd been rolling them wrong all those years. He sat me down and helped me reconstruct it - best spliff I'd ever smoked. Since then me and him have got on like a Doormobile of Hippies at Woodstock. (Catches everybody's sceptical looks) Oh yeah, sorry dudes, sorta got a little side-tracked - guess I don't know what you mean after all, but sounds like it had a bad vibe… (trails off)

Inspector: (After a moments pause) Anyway, it's always fun talking to all you hardy airline passengers, but I ought to get back to the cockpit.

Emma: Cab, perhaps? In a train, you tend to control it from the cab.

Tom T: I can vouch for that. Normally I'm a bit of a politician in the marble department, but I do know you control it from the cab at the front.

Inspector: (Looks at Dunnings, pointing at Tom T) Eh? Is he Greek or something then? (reminiscing) I used to have a Greek neighbour living next-door to me. Great guy, but always was breaking dishes. (Pause. Continues speaking to himself, a little unsure now) Or was he from Glasgow? Never could understand a word he said (Digresses into a fake, strong Glaswegian accent) Eh! See-yu Jimmi! Arl Nut-ya one!

Tom T: (Uncertain) Er, I've lost you for a moment…

Dunnings: You're not the only one.

Gary: Hey! The dude's making perfect sense to me, man.

Inspector: (Interrupting, surprised) Oh, you all speakee English too. And pretty well for foreigners.

Emma: Manchester actually.

Inspector: Oh, well there you go then. Welcome to the United Kingdom.

(Reaches out and shakes her hand rapidly) Always nice to see people from overseas coming to see our humble country. Happy to wait for the train with you. (Checks his watch) Is it due soon?

Dunnings: (slightly irritated) We're already on it.

Inspector: Oh well! That's handy. (Pause) Well, I'd better get back to the cockpit now. It's nice to speak to the passengers down here in Economy none the less.

Emma: (Cautiously trying again) The cab, I think you'll find, not a cockpit.

Inspector: (Shocked) Oh my God! I've been flying the aeroplane from the wrong place for the last eight months. No longer the landings are always a bit rough. (Hurries off, muttering to himself)

Dunnings: (Watches him go) Total nutter. Acts suspiciously like Emma by mid morning in the office.

Tom T: That's only because she secretly sniffs the photocopier when it gets hot.

Emma: (Protesting) I don't.

Tom T: Yes you do. We know your motto: If it's flammable, smoke it. Liquid, drink it. Gaseous, sniff it.

Emma: But… But… But… But…

Tom T: No buts.

Emma: (Pause) Well… Well… Well…

Dunnings: (Tuts) Well, I should have known, you wacky baccy merchant. Ever since you gave me one of your Pork Vindaloo butties, I should have realised there was a more sinister reason why I ended up watching Pink Elephants dance the Fandango across the rooftop.

Tom T: I remember that. You insisted on borrowing Emma's ballet Tutu and prancing after them. When the effects wore off we had to call out the Fire Brigade to pull you off the big hand of the clock tower.

Gary: Whoa, bummer. Major come down if a trip takes on third-party intervention. They must have really thought you were weird.

Emma: Unwittingly they hazarded upon the truth.

Dunnings: (Trying to change the subject) 'Hazarded'? Are you sure that word is in the Dictionary?

Emma: (Smug) It's in the one in your office.

Dunnings: (Embarrassed) Oh.

Tom T: Only because she doodled it in the margin saying that it ought to be there.

Dunnings: (unimpressed) Emma. Had you ever considered that it wasn't in the Dictionary for a reason?

Emma: (Shrugs) I presumed they must have missed it. I thought I'd do you a favour by adding it in.

Tom T: Don't look so surprised, Mr D. We are talking about the person who thought milk grew overnight in bottles on the doorstep. To Emma, Cows are just something to decorate the countryside with.

Gary: (Shocked) You mean they aren't? Heavy duders. It's kind of shaken up my entire reality.

Dunnings: Is that possible?

Gary: Well, I find a dozen cups of strong Espresso usually has the same effect too.

Conversation fizzles out for a moment

Tom T: Looks like we could be here for a while.

Gary: We could play some games to pass the time. I've got just the game to play dudes. (Pulls a Biro out of his pocket, and carefully places it on the table. Silence descends)

Dunnings: So, er, what do we do?

Gary: (Happy) It's called "Watch the Biro". We just… watch the Biro…

Dunnings: And when we get bored? (Pause) Which let's face it - could be fairly soon.

Gary: (Slowly) Er, not sure really dude. Always holds my attention.

Wayne: Mine too man.

Dunnings: (Sighs) I can hardly contain my excitement at the fun-packed hours ahead of us. It sounds like it could be almost as much fun as listening to Tom T's sideburns growing.

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