when i started this research job about 15 months ago the travel seemed exciting~fun! i even started a public transportation page to try and document my wacky adventures. the reality has been a generally tiring, frustrating experience interspersed with a few stunning visuals that i embed in my brain. later when i am stuck waiting for a train or squished in a corner train seat, legs aching to be stretched out i recall the lovely fields of sheep…cows, horses, pigs…the rolling hills, sunrises and sunsets as an antidote.
my travel experience has become an endless routine of hurry up and wait. it’s amazing how standards slip, the unacceptable becomes acceptable and you rationalize that a situation is not as bad as it could be or as bad as what happened last week.
this week has set a new low, the limbo bar is one step lower. one morning i set out for Leeds. i left my house on the bus which gives me one opportunity to jump off and catch the local commuter train which i did because the bus was crawling in traffic-one word explanation-rain. i got to town with 5-10 minutes to spare only to find my train was delayed….usually they give an expected arrival time. is it delayed 3 minutes or 10 minutes? enough time to nip to the loo or 30 minutes? enough time to have a good browse through the magazines or get something to eat. nope my train just says “delayed”
it was delayed 35 minutes, not a good start….. here’s where the rationalizing comes in because i was meeting sarah and her train was cancelled~lucky me! that train journey was 2 hours so total door to door? 4 hours on public transportation and i still had to get home.
our meeting went a bit longer than we’d planned but that’s okay because i had an open ticket. we arrived at the station, at 5pm-the height of rush hour even in Leeds. i only had 6 minutes to get my train so i raced in, weaved in and out of the commuters, asked a train guy which platform and the train pulled in. i glanced around and noticed there was a lot of people expecting to get on…a lot of people who apparently play this game everyday because when the last passenger disembarked they shoved and squeezed (in a very polite british way, of course) onto the train until not one more single person could get on…the aisle and vestibule was full all the way to the door.
now i could have joined the swarm-i don’t mind standing- but i am not going to stand for an hour to the next stop crushed between people doing god knows what on their phones or worse blabbering on and on and on…so i thought okay, i’m hungry, i’ll go get something to eat and wait for the next train-even though it wasn’t due for another hour…
one hour later i’m standing on the very same platform feeling quite happy because the platform was considerably less crowded than an hour ago…the train pulls in and me and a few other savvy travelers head to the last cars which were tantalizingly empty…there was a reason they were empty-they were blocked off because as it was announced…”the last three carriages are not in use on this train due to insufficient train crew to service them” fffffff….i ended up standing for an hour but i had the vestibule all to myself. 4 hours after i arrived at the station to return home i actually walked in my front door….4 + 4 =8 hours of public transportation for a 3 hour meeting.
just to emphasize that UN-randomness of that journey, the next day i had to go london. i was in possession of the magic ticket-an anytime ticket!! so i took my time getting started set out to the bus and watched it drive away just as a i rounded the corner, waited 20 minutes and got on thinking no problem i have an anytime ticket. about halfway tto town the bus came to a complete stop interspersed with occasional crawling…to make a long journey short, the 25 minute drive at night/early morning took at least 90 minutes….
during that trip on the bus i had plenty of time to consider my options and one of them was to turn around and go home…i did stick it out though…caught the 8.30 train which encountered a “switch problem” around watford junction..translation…crawl…i arrived at the office in london close to 11am…another 4 hour journey.
going home was uneventful-a brisk 2.5 hours. leaving london i had a really lovely view of the BT tower lit up with the countdown to the olympics in the distance behind the camden rowhouses-chimneys which were behind the rail yard, tracks. i remembered my first glimpse of england in 2000 when me and my kids took the picadilly line from heathrow to ealing. it was that feeling of awe, seeing something for the first time that reminded me of how hard i have worked to get the opportunity to be delayed by trains in england.