Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521
In D. H. Lawrence's short story “Tickets, Please,” the main character Annie Stone works as a conductor on a Midlands tram service. The service, due to the onset of World War I, is "entirely conducted by girls" and "driven by rash young men." Along with its packed cars and rowdy passengers, it is described as “the most dangerous tram-service in England."
Nevertheless, the dangerous nature of the job and the employees’ similar ages bring the male and female workers together. One man in particular, John Joseph Raynor, likes to take all the new pretty conductors out on dates. He is a man who brings scandal to the surrounding villages. Many different women cycle in and out of the job, making it an ideal situation for a player like John Joseph. The only pretty conductor he keeps his distance from is Annie. The two have an interesting rapport: they act as if they are friends and bicker like an old married couple.
Annie seems to think John Joseph keeps his distance because he is afraid of her sharp tongue, but when they unexpectedly meet at a fair, John Joseph charms her. The two walk about the fair together and participate in the rides. They kiss, and Annie describes how lovely it feels to be held by someone like John Joseph. At this point, Annie starts to fall in love with him. John Joseph also appears to be enjoying his time with Annie, saying that appreciates the way she “melts” into his bones. They become somewhat of an item. John Joseph breaks up with Annie, however, when he feels Annie is getting too serious. He notices her taking an “intelligent interest” in him as a person beyond their nocturnal excursions. He strongly dislikes this and views Annie as “the possessive female” attempting to claim him. This turn of events takes Annie off-guard: she was quite certain he would not let her go.
Annie is furious and alongside the other girls that John Joseph jilted, she concocts a plan to get back at him. The girls all gather in a waiting room at the depot and wait for John Joseph to arrive. He comes in in his usual cocksure way, “sunning himself in the presence of so many damsels.” One girl makes him a cup of tea and another girl called Muriel asks, "who're you going home with tonight, John Joseph?" When John tells them he is going home alone they insist he has to choose one of them to take with him. When he refuses they begin to attack him, hitting, slapping, and kicking him. One girl “had hold at the back of his collar, and was actually strangling him." They exhibit a near superhuman strength and do considerable damage.
After the girls attack him, he is battered and bleeding. His clothes are in tatters and he struggles for breath. Finally, defeated and afraid, John Joseph tells them if he had to choose, he would choose Annie. Annie pretends she doesn't care, telling him to choose again. He silently exits the room, holding the remains of his belongings, and disappears into the night.