gara nord

When I finally had bought my bus ticket I decided to spend the night at the waiting room at the train station. I didn’t want to pay for a hotel room as I had to be at the bus depot, which was close to the station, with my bike at 5 A.M. I went to the waiting room, locked my bike and found enough vacant seats to lie down on. A lot of other people were settling in for the night, too. My friend from the previous train had missed his next connection from Bucharest while waiting for me to finalise the purchase of my bus ticket and so he also was stuck at the station for the night.

At midnight, two security guards appeared. One had a very large belly and appeared to enjoy yelling a lot. He and his partner shook everybody awake and asked to see their tickets and it turned out that most people weren’t catching a train. I showed him my bus ticket but he wasn’t particularly impressed. He pointed at my bike and started yelling again. My friend took him outside for a chat and after a while returned and wrote a figure on a piece of paper which represented the amount I would have to pay the security guard in order for him to allow me to stay in the waiting room until 4 A.M. It wasn’t a huge amount of money but I didn’t like the security guard much so I declined the offer.

Outside, it was still raining. My friend beckoned for me to follow him down the platform. I felt a bit nervous: he obviously had some idea but it was dark and the station was deserted. Behind us, on the platform, I saw one of the security men disappear into a small windowless shed with a woman he had evicted from the waiting room and I guessed that she was paying for a night’s accommodation out of the rain. We left the main station through a heavy metal gate at the end of the platform and walked down the road. I wondered briefly what the hell I was doing wandering around Bucharest in the middle of the night with a guy I didn’t really know but I was too tired to care very much. I just wanted to sit down again so I kept following him.

After a short walk we arrived at another smaller station which we entered through a double glass door. As we made our way across the platform to an unlit shelter another security man appeared. My friend ushered me inside with my bicycle while he remained outside to plead our case. An old man and a woman were already in residence in the tiny glass fronted waiting room. They eyed me and my bike suspiciously and uncomprehendingly. Rain water dripped from leaks in the ceiling collecting in puddles on the floor. Some of the seats were wet. It was just past midnight and 5 A.M. seemed a long way away.

After some time my friend rejoined me apparently having sorted things out with the security guard for the moment. He suggested that I go to sleep so I lay down across a row of seats and shut my eyes. I was very tired but the possibility of sleep seemed remote. From time to time I opened my eyes and gazed out the windows to the platform outside where a rat was visible running busily back and forth in the rain. Perhaps there was more than one rat but I imagined it as a solitary rat with a lot to achieve before the night was over.

As the night wore on our motley gathering grew. Two drunk and argumentative men arrived and started a noisy conversation until the security man came and told them to be quiet. A respectably-dressed young woman entered a little nervously. As more and more people joined us I progressively gave up my row of seats to the newcomers until I was sitting upright against the window.

Time crawled by.