Car 7

Mr Harold Pottluk

Outward appearance

Pale, slim, about 28. Grey slacks, white shirt, no tie, shaved black hair. Rubber-soled Doc Martens mutated towards respectability. Writes on a clipboard.

Inside information

A market researcher for London Underground.

For the last six months, Harold has listed people on carriages by age, gender and racial background. He then selects individuals to interview, using demographic criteria. He asks them about the length of their journey and things to improve. This is the last car on his last day.

What he is doing or thinking

Busy finishing his draft report. It ends with a list of those people who do not travel on the trains: the infirm, infants, men with cars. He identifies the need for further research. Why do so few children go to school by tube? Why are there more women than men until you pass Lambeth North station?

Working on the tubes, Harold has witnessed two suicides, one busking quick-change drag artiste, and one successfully completed sexual act. When the bag lady next to him starts to sing Is that all there is? in a voice like Lotte Lenya's, he is merely mildly pleased. When she succeeds in persuading other passengers to dance, he thinks: that's a nice send-off, one final fling on the cattle trucks.

Harold sees them all, sitting inside their fates like eggs in cartons, there through an inexorable logic of age, gender, genes, character, their time in history, luck. He sees their faces like insulation wrapped around boilers. Their stories wheedle out them like escaping steam. Mostly unheard.

Like his own.

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