It was 2016, the year that ATOS started disinterring corpses to check if they were fit for work. It was also the year that I pretended to work for TfL.
You might have heard of TfL – they run the network of tube trains in London, and intend to continue doing so for the foreseeable future (as that’s where the tunnels are). I started working for them by accident; I fell into the job. Literally fell into it. You see, I used to work as a window cleaner. One day, while I was working on a neat set of Georgian sash windows, my foot slipped and I came off my ladder. I was okay, as I only fell from the first floor, but the man I landed on seemed rather worse for wear. When he realised that he couldn’t get up, he was distraught – apparently it was his first day at work as a train driver, and if he missed the induction he’d be promptly dismissed.
I offered to go in his place. It was the least I could do and, since it was his first day on the job, no-one would recognise me as an imposter. He quickly pointed out that people would then recognise him as an imposter, when he did finally show his face. Some sort of co-ordination would be needed. We were roughly the same height, but he sported a mass of raven-black curls, while I had blonde hair, poker-straight, solitaire-boring, and two-person-game-of-spoons-short.
What we really needed was some kind of defining physical characteristic that would stop people from looking at my face. He seemed unenthusiastic when I suggested an exaggerated limp, while the idea of a shared toupée was dismissed on the basis that the training session started in a mere forty minutes, and there wasn’t a wig shop for miles. (Small, family-owned wig retails outlets were a thing of the past, now that there was a Toupaperchase in every out of town shopping centre.)
Time was ticking away, so I bent down to gather my things. As I did, a man walked past with a ferret on a lead. The two of us watched in stunned silence as he passed. There was the solution! I just needed to take a strange pet along to the induction. I’d probably be asked to leave it at the door, but all that people would remember about me was that I was ‘the man with the ferret’. It was too late to ask the man with the ferret for his ferret, besides, I didn’t really want to approach him – he was the sort of a man who owned a ferret. There had been some turtle doves on the first floor windowsill, and I was pretty sure that I could catch one from my ladder. I used my shoelaces to make tiny lassoes, and caught the birds by their feet.
In the end I decided to take two, for good measure.