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The trains are still running. I know because I’ve seen them. When out to exercise, or grocery shop, or glare at the backs of joggers huffing past in a miasma of sweat and spittle, I spy the dusty white carriages lumbering into Lewisham station, the tinted glass just clear enough to show they are empty, save, presumably, for the odd key worker.
Maybe those on board think it a small mercy of the present horror, a frayed thread of a silver lining, that their journey is no longer soundtracked by men in easy-care chinos and open-necked shirts. Men who, when not hammering at their MacBooks with a gaze and intensity appropriate to someone sequencing the human genome in their head, treat the carriage as their own private meeting room. In short, that they don’t have to suffer Bob Mortimer’s Train Guy.
Appearing on Mortimer’s Twitter and Instagram in October last year, Train Guy went viral as the archetype of every tosser from the ever-booming management classes who made your commute worse than it already was. He is the Irritant Alpha King of the public transport users yet to hear the good news about headphones, or silent mode, or quiet zones, or not behaving like a needy, bellowing, man-spreading man-child when in close confinement with others.
In Mortimer’s videos Train Guy, riding the “Network Fail” into London, FaceTimes his colleague Colin to report on his go-getting ventures and hectic schedule, and to brag about a forthcoming meeting “visage a visage” with corporate titan Geoff Linton: a man who, it is said, put the point on top of the Shard. (“Ten minutes with Geoff Linton, it’ll be like playing Warhammer with Thor!”)
Train Guy’s voice is a perky transatlantic adenoidal drawl, all vowel elongation, wacky suffixes (“catch-up-a-roonie”), and question-intonated vocal tics and filler. It is a voice that, before it colonised the boardroom, was once associated with Radio 1 DJs. His conversation consists of macho, sexualised self-aggrandisement (“I did the moonwalk all over the boss’s tits, you know what I mean?”) and passive-aggressive banter; mashed up buzz-phrases (“reverse loop on the peripherals, yeah?”) and explosions of pidgin Italian – as befits a lover of “artisan campa-choo-choo”.
This article first appeared on www.newstatesman.com
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