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Monday, 9 January 2012

Free Soft Drinks - An Unknown Obituary

Something strange happened today. I was on the train back from London, where myself and my brother visit every fortnight and in between Clapham Junction and New Malden the train stopped. We had not even reached our first scheduled stop on an hour and fifteen minute journey. After around 20 minutes stationery passengers began to question as to why he had been stopped for so long.

At the time I had been reading a first in a set of three volumes on the core principles of Zen Buddhism. I was reading a short passsage which underlined the lack of reflection in modern society concerning death. This Buddhist teacher encourages the active reflection of death daily, saying that through acknowledging the fact that "Today, I may die" we become to appreciate life more, in the knowledge that death could occur at any indeterminable moment.

As I looked up from the book, A ticket inspector had entered the carriage in order to inform us that police and engineers were scouting the periphery of the train. Upon passing Wimbledon Station, a man had thrown himself in front of the moving train and killed himself. Everybody in the carriage was very disgruntled, they frantically consulted the inspector demanding to know when they would arrive, how long they would be stuck here and if they would be "re-imbursed".

This man, a nameless, faceless, now lifeless man was given no moment of thought. His life had ended with less commotion than when it had begun. I imagine there are less creative, more "convenient" ways to kill oneself but surely, in jumping in front of this train his sole objective was to cause panic, distress and in short, be remembered. But his final wish had only partly been fulfilled.

Had he caused panic? Yes. Had he caused distress? Yes. But only through the panic and distress felt by all these passengers towards the increasingly more convoluted and intricate logistics of their journey. So after one hour had passed they gave everyone free drinks. Free drinks. A gesture of South West Trains to thank their customers for waiting whilst they cleared up the disembodied remains of a lonely guy. And as they quaffed down 500ml bottles of Sprite and Fanta I could almost see a glassy tear drip down their plastic containers. The death of a human being, a gleeful smile from the inspector handing down fizzy pop to 10 year old children.

"Free drinks for all!" "Free drinks for all!" was this the last wailed whisper of the man on Wimbledon Station? "Free drinks for all!" Free drinks for all! the hollered obituary of a man never known.

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