No one plans on being a train driver.
I certainly didn’t.
When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut – a little rote, I know, but what do you want from me?
I was ten-years old, I loved Star Trek and in my great wisdom I believed that by the time I was ‘all grown up’ the Federation would be hiring and I’d be the first of a chosen few to boldly go where no man had gone before.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d scraped through school and college I’d come to the nagging realisation that Star Fleet was perhaps a few more decades away from coming into existence and unless they dropped their standards, I’d probably be relegated to a less exciting, less glamorous section. You never saw any cleaners vacuuming the pristine corridors of the Enterprise-D, but something tells me they were probably behind the scenes, dutifully tidying the top-tier officers’ quarters and cleaning after their raucous drinks parties and amorous social engagements with alien life forms.
By the time I’d left college and come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be exploring the stars for a living, I had to sit down and have a long hard think about what I could realistically do with my life. I’d made a few errors during the later years of my education, like so many young men are wont to do, as such an air of melancholy had clung to me, like an ankle high cloud of dry ice in a music video from the 80s.
I found a summer job in my local supermarket and found myself surprised with how I enjoyed such an unglamorous job. I found a strange kind of camaraderie at that first job. The odd formless uniforms that we all wore bonded us in mediocrity. There were no cliques, we were all in it together and pretty soon I found that my ‘summer job’ had turned into a full-time career. When I was offered my first promotion there, after a year’s service, I knew that I’d stayed too long. I like my team, but ennui had set in. I’d had enough of living in my childhood bedroom and I couldn’t be certain, but I had the feeling that my Mum was done with cooking my dinner every night. It was time to leave.
After a year spent stacking shelves, passing items through the checkout, I felt like I’d spent enough time in a supermarket to last me a lifetime.
The cloud of disappointment had lifted, it had been replaced by something new. I’d been emboldened by my year of work, I knew that I was capable of more. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was a ‘fire in my belly’, but there was certainly a seed of ambition that had not been there before.
When my agency called me to say that I was perfect fit for the role of a train driver, there was no hesitation in my affirmative reply.
Transport for London might not be Star Fleet, but it sure pays better than shelf stacking and once more I’m part of an excellent team – it’s just a little larger than before.