Note: Details of this incident have been left intentionally vague, for several reasons. This also occurred a few months ago, dates also have been left vague.
It's a little after 7AM, and I'm tired. I woke up at around 5 to get ready, facing the freezing morning, and now I am on a high speed train, on the way to a major city. THe sun isn't up, and won't be here for a while yet. I almost feel alone. If everything goes well, I should arrive in less than 30 minutes, and go to an engineering school, where I have been asked to lecture for two weeks. My students expect me to be there at 8:15, and today's lessons is about interrupts. I should have prepared my lecture yesterday, but small details like sleep got in the way of things, and now here I am, on a train, preparing a lecture. I have an Arduino, a breadboard, a few wires and a few components. The carriage is almost deserted. With my laptop on one side, I start wiring up today's project. I must have been at it for about five minutes, concentrating on what to say, and what to do. My students are highly curious, which is a blessing for a lecturer; it means that they will be hooked on today's lesson, but it also means that I'm not allowed to disappoint.
The door on the far end of the carriage opens. This isn't surprising, at this time of the morning, half the passengers are asleep, and a few others are walking towards the bar, about to buy a coffee to help them through the day. Only this person isn't walking, he's running. Now that is a bit strange. I don't even have time to turn around, someone runs up to me, and blocks my passage. He has a hand on a sidearm, and I've been in the military long enough to know when the safety isn't on, and when the owner isn't joking. He isn't. He has a serious expression on his face, and a "POLICE" band around his arm. Firmly, but politely, he asks me to follow him into the section between the carriages. Being British, I have a sort of Monty Python genetic urge to say something funny, like ticket controllers have stepped up their game, but not to worry, because I do indeed have a ticket. My brain is working just enough to know that this probably isn't the best time.
I accept his offer, and lead the way to the space between the carriages. I'm met by another colleague, and ordered to sit down on a small sofa. The passage is barred by two people, and despite my 1m85/100Kg physique, I'm no match. Now the questions begin.
- Sir, what where you doing?
What, there? In the train? I was working on today's lesson.
Yes, lesson. I'm a research professor, I'm working for an engineering school, I'm scheduled to give IoT lessons this morning.
- Do you have a way to prove that?
Of course, sit down, I'll give you the lecture.
We're at a stalemate here, I can see where this is going. They are suspicious of what I'm doing, and to be honest, wiring up a board on a train in the current state of affairs, or affairs of state, probably wasn't the best move. Now I have to prove that I really am a teacher, and this really is an Arduino that will not do anything more than blink. I do have an idea. Slowly, while explaining what I'm doing, I reach into my pocket, and slowly bring out my passport. I hand it to the serious looking one. Have a look, this is who I am, now I'll show you what I do. Type that name into Amazon, and you'll see the books I've written. The conversation lasted a few minutes as I explain the history of Arduino, the point of my lecture, and the millions of breadboards sold to Makers. The more this continues, the more he looks sheepish. After ten minutes, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, and I'm free to go. They even reimburse my train ticket as a gesture of good will. I'm not taking this any further, if anything, it is reassuring. A passenger was worried, and sent a message to a security phone number. The response was appropriate. However, I didn't notice until later that one of my boards was damaged; a SiLabs board with a great Memory LCD screen that won't work any more. Oh well.
On returning to my seat, I notice that we were only two in the carriage, and my fellow passenger is avoiding eye contact at all costs. I want to explain, but there is nothing I can say that can make any of this any better.
An hour later I'm at the school, and facing my students. It's my turn to look sheepish. I apologize; today's lesson is going to be a lot more interactive than I had hoped. I explain what happened, the stare at me as if I was from another planet. One student got up and left the room, she was unable to stop laughing.
From now on, I catch up on sleep when I'm on a train. It's much safer.