The rain hurled itself against the bus and through the taunting crack in the stubborn old windows. The umbrella propped up against my leg sent ice-cold droplets through my thin polyester pants and down my shin. The droplets paused momentarily at my ankle before merging with the water which had already seeped through my shoes.
Then she sat down beside me.
“Sniffle,” she commenced, as she accommodated herself on the seat.
“Sniffle, sniffle,” as she busied herself with her handbag, raincoat and umbrella, the last of which sent water streaming down my other leg and into the river that was now snaking its way down the aisle and under the feet of every disgruntled passenger.
“Sniffle, sniffle,” she repeated, dabbing half-heartedly at her nose with a single finger.
She dabbed, conscious not to disturb her carefully arranged corporate ensemble and her carefully applied make-up.
“Sniffle, sniffle,” she continued, as I wondered whether I would have to endure this noise until one of us reached our final destination.
“Sniffle, sniffle, sneeze, sniiiifffflllleeee…,” went the soundtrack to winter.
This was getting beyond frustrating.
Surely, she has a tissue, or something which can serve to end this infernal noise, or had she forgotten her tissues, just as I had forgotten my headphones?
I have tissues.
Should I offer her a tissue?
Would she regard this as polite or as presumptuous and an invasion of her privacy?
Is she bothered by the fact that I am bothered?
Would the offer of a tissue be considered chivalrous or patronising?
I was in such a conundrum I decided to do nothing.
Suddenly, she dived into her vast, designer label handbag. Maybe, finally, she had succumbed to her sodden sinuses and sought solace in a tissue.
She rustled around intently.
“Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle”
The tissues must be in there somewhere, they can’t be that hard to find.
The elbow was raised and the hand was drawn out. Surely, it will emerge grasping a tissue.
No, the hand was extracted without a tissue. Instead, it was wrapped around a mobile phone.
“Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle.”
Blow your nose, for crying out loud, and put an end to this ghastly sniffle, sniffle.
The hand is going back in, as the sniffling continues and the rain intensifies its attack on the morning commute.
Nimble but agitated fingers flick aside the bag’s contents, which clatter against each other in feeble protest.
She sniffles in staccato and cocks the elbow yet again. She levers the arm out of the bag, slowly revealing clawed fingers clutching something white.
No, not even a white flag raised in surrender.
She withdrew a set of headphones, placed them in her ears and sniffled at her screen in total bliss for the remainder of the journey.