How I disrupted the British Rail System because I had too much coffee


The whole situation was disrupted because I needed to pee.

I was on a business trip to Wales and boarded an early morning train that was to carry me across the United Kingdom to London. In fact it was so early, it was the first train of the day and it was just sitting in the railyard waiting to go.

I was the first passenger in the idle railcar and had nothing to do but sit there, read the paper, and drink coffee … maybe a little too much coffee. I decided I needed to urinate. In my defense … who wouldn’t?

As I closed the door of the men’s room “capsule” behind me, I caught a glimpse of something silver on the floor. When I finished my business, I discovered that it was the handle for the door. The handle had fallen off the door and I could not get out. I was trapped in the bathroom.

I remained calm and had just one thought: “What would James Bond do?”

Looking around the tight quarters, I assessed my circumstances to determine a plan of action. There was nothing I could do to open the door. There was no tool I could use to pry the door open. The train was still sitting there, but there were no other passengers in my compartment, so yelling would do no good.

There was only one option: an emergency cord in the compartment. If I pulled the cord, maybe it would set off an alarm light or something. It wasn’t as glamorous as sawing through the door with dental floss, but I had a plan.

I pulled the cord hard. Nothing.

I took my seat, such as it was, and stewed over my embarrassing situation. Would I be riding all the way to London in the loo?

Just then, I heard a door slam behind me. The ladies’ room door! Someone else was peeing! Oh joy!

“Help!” I yelled, “I’m stuck in the bathroom.”

A woman’s voice cried out through the wall, “You’re trapped in the loo?”

“Yes, I’m trapped in the loo. The door handle fell off.”

“Oh you poor dear. I’ll summon help at once!”

In a few minutes, I could hear people scuffling down the aisle. A man said, “You say he’s stuck in the loo?”

“Yes, quite.”

“Well, why didn’t he get some help?”

“I suppose it’s because he’s stuck in the loo.”

In moments, the man had the door open and I was freed. Embarrassed, I thanked them both and returned to my seat but decided to drink no more coffee.

The train was supposed to leave on the hour, but 2o minutes later it was still sitting there. What was going on? The engineer’s voice came over the loudspeaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the delay. Somebody pulled the emergency cord and disabled our hydraulic system. We will be delayed another 10 minutes while we fix it.”

Luckily I was still the only person in my compartment, so there were no apologies to offer. I had made a bad situation worse, but deep inside I felt some pride that I had disrupted the British Rail System and their subpar toilet door handles.

This is the point where you expect me to tie this all together with some pithy observation about business and marketing. But, there is no lesson here except that sometimes it’s more rewarding to make fun of myself rather than trying to be smart every day.

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is friends with John apparently. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

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