Every Tuesday Alice changed her commute. She did this because she was worried that travelling the exact same journey everyday created a risk of identity fraud. She still threw away bank statements, credit card bills and payslips in the same recycling bag, but had decided that strange figures plotting her journey to work and home was the greater risk, and so every Tuesday she would change at Stockwell and hop on the Northern line. It added fifteen minutes to her journey time and even though every week she would arrive to the nine AM sales meeting out of breath and sweaty, she considered it time well spent. She had not yet considered the fact that this attempt to break routine had now become a routine, and as with all routines, after a few months she forgot why she was doing it at all.
On one of these Tuesdays a man was eating strawberries straight from the punnet in the seat next to her. He struggled to make his five-a-day recommended dietary requirement on the other six days of the week, and overcompensated by cramming a whopping ten portions of fruit into Tuesdays. His usual choice of morning-commute fruit – white grapes – was sold out in his local supermarket, and so he had panic purchased the strawberries. They were not in season, firm to chew and overly tart. As the train juddered to a halt at Oval he dropped one of the half eaten tips which bounced off his thigh and onto Alice’s. The juicy red flesh left a small thumbnail size blotch on her white jeans; the stain was not visible on his own black suit trousers.
Ordinarily this sort of event would not have riled Alice. She was clumsy and would often spend an afternoon with a blouse stained from that day’s lunch, or perhaps from even earlier in the day (she was a drink spiller, too); at a recent house party her friends had jokingly given her a glass of red wine served in a child’s plastic sippy cup, a joke they had all laughed at, but were then glad about when she accidentally kicked this across the cream carpet floor. Alice herself had shared the laughter and subsequent relief. No, on an ordinary day Alice would have let this slide – she would have accepted the apology with a ‘don’t worry about it’, or ‘these things happen’. However, today was not an ordinary day. Today was a Tuesday.
The man did not apologise, and instead delicately picked the strawberry tip off its resting place on Alice’s thigh. He was hopeful that the stain would go unnoticed until he got up and left the tube at Bank, off to spend a day committing worse deeds in his job as an assistant hedgefund portfolio manager, and he would forget about it as soon as he had thrown the empty punnet in a bin outside the station. His own designer suit was unscathed and he was every bit the stereotype of his job – he even had that grease-wax swept back hair typical of an eighties yuppie or comic book villain – so ruining the appearance of an inconsequential bit of skirt would not trouble him.
On Monday nights Alice listened to The Guilty Feminist podcast. She would do this in the kitchen, while cooking dinner for her boyfriend, through her female-voiced virtual assistant powered smart speaker. The irony was lost on her.