Yesterday I went to London to meet up with my good friend Monica who had been my neighbour for 10 years in Switzerland and to pick up a Swiss boy (but that's another story).
Before I start I should say that I love train travel. I love the fact that I don't have to "check in" two hours ahead of departure and I love the soothing rythum of the train. So with my advance ticket booking confirmation in hand I attemped to retrieve my "real" tickets from the ticket machine.
Unbelievably, the keyboard was both sensitive and insensitive at the same time. Sensitive as in when I keyed in my booking reference number it picked up the letter underneath, the letter adjacent and sometimes both. However the "back" button didn't work which meant that I couldn't backtrack, Each time I had to start from scratch again, and again, and again! "OK" I instruct myself, "calm down and move to another machine." Same thing.
Next calming step is to go into the ticket hall and negotiate with a "human being" to, out the kindness of their heart, help me with the process. There was a queue and only two desks open. At one desk a lengthy transaction was taking place and at the other the clerk was wrestling with a piece of electonics which appeared not to be working. I then spot another bank of ticket machines and decided to give it one more go. Hey Presto! It worked.
The departure board indicated that trains to London were running late and as I had a tight schedule I wondered if I could get on the next late train instead of the one I had booked onto which was going to be even later (if you get my drift). I thought the best plan was to ask. Ah!! The "information" desk was unmanned, there were no platform staff anywhere to be seen and by now the ticket hall was even busier with the clerk still punching buttons on the electronic device which patently was never, ever going to work again.
Then they announced that the 1st late train was due to arrive. A despatcher magically appeared from his cubby hole, clipboard in hand. Leaping on him I asked if I could use my ticket on this train. "No, sorry love, this ticket is "time specific". If you get on this train you will be charged full single price again". So I had to let that train go and I had to let the next one go too. And for the priviledge of all this I had paid the princely sum of £55.80 - discounted, I should add, because I had booked early.
After our brief meeting, my dear friend Monica (who, I'm sure won't mind me saying, is older than me and that's quite old) was to travel on to Lancaster. When we went to buy her ticket she got £20 out of her purse, I said "that won't be enough" and, sure enough, she had to pay £79 for a one way ticket. Outragous. I asked the clerk if she could book a seat "no, you can only do that 3 hours ahead of time".
Why do we make such a big, and I should add expensive, deal of simple things? This bloody country, sometimes I hate it.
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