Any Londoner will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that making eye contact with a stranger on a train (let alone talking to them) is essentially the cardinal sin of commuting. We’re expected to stand on the right, queue in an orderly fashion, have our tickets and Oysters ready long before we reach the barriers, and then cocoon ourselves into a pleasant wall of silence. That’s it.
And we get it, we really do (there’s nothing quite like that feeling of self-induced solitude on public transport), but there’s no denying that it makes things incredibly tricky for those of us who do want to talk to our fellow passengers. Especially when they’re harbouring a feverish rush-hour crush.
However, Zoe Folbigg decided to go where commuters fear to tread, and handed a man on her train a handwritten letter declaring her feelings.
Back in July 2003, she was clambering aboard her usual train (the 8.21 from Hitchen, Hertfordshire, to King’s Cross, if anyone’s wondering) when she spotted him – ‘train man’.
“I don't know what it was exactly,” said Folbigg, during a recent interview with ITV’s This Morning. “Normally it's the same faces who get your train every day and you recognise other people from your commute.
“One day there was this new man walking up the platform and he was beautiful and I thought, ‘He looks lovely’.”
Over the course of a year, Folbigg became absolutely besotted with her train crush – and would sit silently in the same carriage every single day, willing him to notice her.
“I worked on a teen magazine at the time, and my colleagues were amazing. I'd go into work and they'd say ‘How's train man today? What was he wearing, did he look up?’ and it was always ‘Oh no, I didn't talk to him,’” she explained.
On her birthday, exactly one year after she first spotted him, Folbigg plucked up the courage to hand her crush a handwritten letter, explaining her feelings and leaving him her email with an invitation for drinks.
But, come 5pm, disaster struck: he emailed to reveal that he had a girlfriend.
It made commuting incredibly awkward, Folbigg says, but she accepted the rejection, ending up travelling for eight months alongside the man who turned her down.
But it seems as if fortune truly does favour the bold – albeit some time later.
“He emailed me [in January 2005] and said, ‘If you still fancied that drink would you like to go out? My circumstances have changed and it would be lovely to go out for a drink.’”
It’s safe to say that the date was a rip-roaring success: the pair bonded immediately over their shared interests, and quickly became inseparable. After three months, they moved in together. And, shortly after that, the pair decided to throw caution to the wind, quit their jobs, ditch the daily commute that brought them together and travel the world as a couple.
Three years later, Mark popped the question and Folbigg ended up marrying her rush-hour crush in 2009. A fact which absolutely blew people’s minds on social media…
This is so heartwarming and lovely. Congratulations. We'd all love a dream fairytale like this. I wonder how often it does happen though.— Francesca Fall (@Francescabray77) September 19, 2017
Ohhh i love this story so much should be made into a film 💖— Diana parker (@diparker29) September 19, 2017
It seems as if Folbigg – who now has two sons with her ‘train man’ – agrees with the sentiment that her love story has potential as a film. Or, at the very least, a book.
In fact, she has transformed their incredible love story into a novel, called The Note – although she’s the first to admit that the fictionalised version of events is a little “juicier” than the reality.
You can buy the Kindle version of the “uplifting, life-affirming romance about finding love in an unexpected place” for £2.48 on Amazon UK.