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Sitting In Judgment By Error

What are the chances? Someone, somewhere must know. Someone, somewhere must be good at stats. The autobiography is back on the agenda and the name is definitely going to be If We Had Ducks ... They'd Drown! A fitting name, as you will see ...

It was a day like any other. We were travelling to Cork for the radio show. We elected to go by train. It's civilised. You can read your paper. You can Twitter. Trouble was, in the years since I last used the railway, it had become even more civilised.

The last time I was on a train, the seating had been a free for all. Some people ended up standing. We were determined not to be those people, so we queued for an hour before departure. Even so, on boarding we were swept aside in a human sea of fellow travellers. We grabbed the first seats we could.

Minutes later, bags stashed, laptops open, coffees purchased and coats off we noticed little electronic names above our seats. They weren't our names. We checked our tickets. Amazingly, CIE appeared to have entered the age of pre-designated seating. It will never take off we concluded.

Still, we sent a raiding party to see if the seats we were supposed to be in were still available. They weren't. The relief was palpable. But just as we were about to relax, we were approached by two teenage girls. "They are our seats," they said, pointing at two of the three we had usurped.

What happened next wasn't pretty. Looking them square in the eye, I said: "The man told us it was okay." The man! I haven't used the man as an excuse since I was in short trousers. I then embroidered: "The man said that everyone could sit where they wanted today."

There was no sign of any man, thank God, and they found alternative seats easily. It appeared the moment had passed. The man as an excuse must be back in fashion, I thought. I looked forward to using it again, an opportunity that would present itself sooner than I suspected.

Two ladies approached. They pointed at the two facing seats, one of which I occupied. "These are our seats," they said. I somehow managed to avoid using the man this time, but I fear if I was to hear a recording of what I did say the phrase "the system has broken down" would have featured heavily.

"It's just that we are work colleagues, and booked adjoining seats to get some work done on the trip,' one added.

I was about to gather my possessions and hang out near the food carriage when fate intervened. One of the two spotted two other seats, amazingly still unoccupied, and grabbed them to save our blushes.

As her colleague moved to join her, she looked curiously into my face. "Wait a minute -- are you Tom Dunne?' she asked. "I am, I said," a tad uncomfortable. She introduced herself. It was a name I knew well. But then the employee of one national radio station would be bound to know the name of the head -- the head! -- of another.

As previously asked: what are the chances?

Tune into Tom Dunne on Newstalk 106-108FM on weekdays from 9am to noon