When I was little, my nan used to look after me while my mom was at work. Our favourite pastime was watching daytime game shows together, shouting the answers at the screen, cheese sandwiches on saucers sliding off our laps. In the commercial breaks, the same adverts always came up: furniture shops, cleaning products, and compensation lawyers.
I was curious about the last one. When I asked, “What’s compensation?” and learned that it meant “being paid money when you break your arm falling off a bus” or something, it spurred a running family joke about scamming compensation money for the stupidest things. Anytime you fell over or tripped – compensation. The shop not having the precise brand of beans you wanted? Compensation, absolutely.
Which is why this week, when I read the BBC News story about commuter compensation for accidents in the UK’s train stations, I clucked to myself particularly heartily when I noticed one detail. At some point over the last five years, someone, somewhere has been paid over £27,000 in compensation for what is described as a "possible" slip in pigeon shit, in Paddington station. I am left with no choice but to name this person – and, actually, on greater reflection, basically everyone involved in this whole situation – the week’s greatest pisstaker.
SORRY BUT GETTING NEARLY 30 GRAND FOR SLIPPING IN SHIT IS SO FUNNY
I will caveat what I’m going to say next by stating that I sincerely hope that the person who slipped – whether in pigeon poo or not – is feeling better, and that if they were hurt, their injury has healed. I wish them well.
But. Like. Even if you yourself had potentially slipped in a substance you believed to be poo, in the middle of a train station, and then sued Network Rail about it, you would have to admit that this was a completely hilarious sequence of events to have happened. If it were me, even just realising that what I was sliding across the floor on what was indeed poo would be enough to just accept the loss (in this scenario, the thought at the forefront of my mind – even while I was in the middle of going down, potentially twisting or even breaking an ankle – would be 100-percent be “Fuuuuucking hell, this is so funny”) because of potential future gains. It would, after all, be a good story to tell people at parties, or as an icebreaker in work exercises where you have to say a fact about yourself and usually pick things like, “I’m Lauren and I sometimes eat my dinner in bed!”
But do you know what would be an even better story? “I slipped in shit. And then I sued Network Rail for £27,000.” Pisstaking as Olympic sport.
All the story says is that it is “possible” that the unlucky commuter slipped in “poo,” not that they conclusively did. Here it becomes unclear whether it is Network Rail’s legal team who are the bigger pisstakers: if it wasn’t poo and the person lied about it then obviously yeah, they are the pisstaker.
But can you imagine 1) slipping in shit 2) in a train station in front of probably hundreds of people 3) getting hurt so badly you need medical attention (I can’t imagine you’d sue, or indeed win in court, if it wasn’t a significant enough injury) 4) and then probably having to receive that medical attention while “on the station” (why do train station announcers always say “on the station”?) 5) only for the legal representatives of the train station to call it "alleged" or "possible" shit. Insulting! Pisstaking!
IS THE PIGEON ACTUALLY THE BIGGEST PISSTAKER IN THE STORY THOUGH
Before I get to the above, however, and because it’s important to explore all possibilities, I want to ask: is there any proof that this is pigeon shit? It could be the shit of a different bird, and as a journalist, I do just think it’s necessary to add that.
But assuming it is the poo of a pigeon (the most likely scenario – if you have ever been to London Paddington you will be aware that amidst the Barburrito and Marks and Spencer, many pigeons roam): this pigeon is a pisstaker. One evacuation of their bowels caused this whole debacle, costing Network Rail the equivalent of a yearly salary. One shit from the pigeon and someone requires paramedic attention on the floor of a major national thoroughfare.
Does the pigeon care? Does it fuck. It’s just knobbling around on its gnarled feet hoping that a bit of Pret sandwich or sausage roll – or even a simple crisp – falls on the floor next to it, so it can peck at it for a bit. A pure chancer. The Del Boy of the bird world.
This week, second place goes to the couple shagging in a car outside Sainsbury's Locksbottom, with all the windows open. Many happy returns to them.