Monday, January 22

Sit tight, I'm gonna need you to keep time. Come on just snap, snap, snap your fingers for me.

I've not been very lucky of late.
I strive to be the sort of person who believes in good karma. Do something good and good things will come back round full circle, right? Do a good deed, do something that makes a difference or even just keep your nose clean and eventually good things will happen to you, right?
Even Justin Timberlake says "What goes around, comes back around". Although he may not have meant it in the positive way that I interpreted it.

With my boneshaker of a car not being very road-worthy (and I use the term very loosely), the issue of travelling to 90 odd miles to see The Girl presents something of a problem nowadays. Not being the sort of person to see this an a big issue, I decided to put public transport to the test.
After some conversations with The Girl, the plan was in place. I would risk the boneshaker to get me to the local train station, take the train into the City Centre where I would walk to the large bus/coach station, get a coach to take me the majority of the way courtesy of a very cheap ticket puchased online and The Girl would be able to pick me up at her end.
It all seemed so simple.

I left here a little earlier than I could have done, purely because I didn't know the way to the bus/coach station from the City Centre train station and wanted to make sure I had enough time to find the place. The boneshaker got me to the local train station (just about), where I parked up and proceeded to the ticket office. Except there wasn't one! In it's place was an automated machine, fine under normal circumstances, but this machine had no indication of price or destinations. On top of not knowing how much to pay or which platform to stand on, I fumbled around in my pocket to find nothing but coppers. I had money, but only notes. The automated machine, whilst not stating any prices or destinations, quite clearly stated no notes, exact change only. Off down the road I toddled, to a nearby newsagents to break the note into some suitable change. No problem I thought, I could get some chewing gum for the journey. I came out with mints!
Back at the train station I fed the machine with an approximation of journey cost. I walked up the steps and duly watched a train (which I now realised was the one I wanted to catch) pull off. So I waited....and waited....and waited. Earlier on, I had checked the local train times and read that they left every 20 minutes so I didn't think it was such a big deal as I'd left extra early and still had plenty of time. After all, the important part of the journey was to catch the coach because I had a specific ticket, for a specific coach, at a specific time. 40 odd minutes later the next train arrived.
At the City Centre train station, I was refused exit because my 'ticket' wasn't actually a ticket. It was just a receipt for a payment made via an automated machine and was duly pointed by the guy on the exit turnstile to exchange it for a valid ticket. He motioned to a couple of ladies sat beside the Information kiosk, so off I went to join the queue to get a 'valid ticket', behind about 30 other people. 25 minutes later, I was the proud owner of a valid ticket for all of about 30 seconds because the guy on the exit turnstile glanced over it, mumbled something, took it off me and ushered me through.
Oh well.
Next up was to find the bus/coach station. I had asked the lady at the ticket exchange only to be told she didn't know and she suggested I should ask the guy on the exit turnstile. I didn't have time to ask him because of the other 284 people behind me waiting to get out....with their valid tickets.
I saw a 'Local Information Shop' and thought my prayers were answered. More queueing and more waiting. At the window, I asked the guy where the bus/coach station was. His first suggestion of waiting for a free pick up shuttle service bus was no good considering by this time, time was against me. I had 30 minutes to find it and the shuttle bus ran every 40 minutes. He then very kindly started to explain how to get there by foot. I was trying to listen to him but my eyes were drawn to the map he was pointing at with his pen. By the time he'd finished explaining, I realised all I'd gained from him was, "Walk out of the station and turn left...." because I was concentrating on his pen over the map. I smiled...."Can I have that map please....?" He told me they were normally a pound. I smiled again....He handed it over.
With map in hand and trying my best not to look like a tourist, I exited the train station and duly turned left. A few steps later and I was already lost. He said something about a spiral staircase. Is that a spiral staircase? I continued on and found myself by an open market, by this time most of the market stalls were packing up from the days' trade. I saw a sign for the bus/coach station. Result! I followed it's direction and after about 200 yards I saw another sign pointing in the direction I'd just walked from!
Clearly I'd reached one of those times in my life where I needed to swallow my man pride and ask somebody for directions (again). I asked a market stall guy, who told me to follow the road down, cross over the road where the traffic lights didn't work anymore, pass by the burnt out pub and keep going about half a mile and it would be on my left.
It was on the right!

At the bus/coach station, I sent a text to The Girl to tell her I was there and just waiting for the coach. Ok, so it hadn't been plain sailing so far but at least I was at the station and all I had to do was find the right coach. The coach pulled up, the driver checked my ticket and I got on.
There was about 30 people on the coach, so lots of empty seats. The coach pulled out, I took out my book and began to read. Opposite me sat a lady who spent the first hour of the journey picking at her chicken in box. It was like a KFC box of chicken except it wasn't KFC, it was a cheap version and stunk like something you'd have thrown away 4 days ago. She didn't just eat it either, she picked strips off it....for an hour! It stunk!
The coach journey time was stated as just over 3 hours. 2 hours into the journey, the coach pulled over on the side of the road and the driver walked down the aisle in between the seats demanding to know who was smoking. There was a smell that's for sure, but it wasn't a cigarette smell. When I first smelt it, I thought it might be the chicken lady having another stab at her food again. The driver didn't seem too happy and was adamant that somebody had been smoking. Nobody admitted to it and he went back to his seat with a huff.
Another few miles down the road and we were due to make a scheduled stop anyway. We pulled into the bus station and the driver let himself out. He disappeared around the back of the coach for a few minutes before letting himself back onto the front of the coach.
He announced...."We've broken down"
Something about some belts that had shredded in the engine and were pumping fumed back into the coach, hence the smell.
I got off the coach and lit up a cigarette outside while I phoned The Girl.
It should have been another hour to complete the journey. The driver told us that the next coach due into that particular station would arrive in an hour (if it was on time).
So we waited....and waited....and waited....
About 45 minutes later, a mini bus turned up and took 9 passengers off to one of the other destinations that the coach was originally intending to do a drop off at.
15 minutes later another one turned up. I got on that on.

The driver looked like an escaped convict, confirmed by his 'authorised mini bus driver' badge displaying his mug-shot. Either the driver had a phobia changing over 3rd gear or he secretly knew attempting a high speed gear change would result in some kind of explosion. What followed was an hour of engine scream, although that was only just audible over the 1950's radio station he decided we all must have liked.
As if the rest of the day hadn't been challenging enough, and no amount of internal praying on my behalf was paying off, chicken lady sat right next to me on the mini bus. Luckily for me, the smell of the stinky chicken had slightly worn off. Unluckily for me, it had been over-powered by her B.O. Add to that the fact that she had her I-Pod blasting through some ill-fitting earphones and liked to join in with a wailing sound, not unlike a banshee and it made for an uncomfortable 60 odd minute journey.
We arrived in the City almost 90 minutes after our original quoted time. The convict driver was clearly confused by his satellite navigation and after the voice told him for the 3rd time, "Turn Around, Turn Around", he pulled over and told us all to get out.

Stranded on an unfamiliar street, I called The Girl who came to my rescue.
Aah, bless!

I had a great weekend.
What about you?

5 parlez:

Ally said...

"It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive". Although possibly not in this case :).

SwissToni said...

oh good grief. you must have had the patience of a saint not to have snapped. This is why people don't use public bloody transport.

Still, you can laugh about it now, eh?


Cat said...

Public transport is no friend of mine. I also loathe people who turn their iPods up too loud - every time my colleague's son comes into the office for a lift home I end up wanting to scream at him. Not everyone wants to hear Limp Biskit.

Delboy's Daughter said...

not everyone likes limp things.. its true!

Beth said...

I hate how you're supposed to *know* things when you're trying to use public transport, without there being anyone or anything to explain it to you...