Public transport has only gone really wrong for me a few times in my life. I am used to delays of up to half an hour, anything longer than that and it becomes a bit more of a story.
Usually though, I like to think I handle the situations pretty well. I think most people do, there is this calm sense of resignation. Getting stressed won’t get us there any faster, so we’ll all just have to grimace at the departures board and hope Network Rail sort it out.
I remember when I had just graduated and I had an interview. I was at my mum’s for the summer so I had to get the train there. I bought my ticket and the guy at the ticket office said that there were some delays in that direction. I shrugged and thought it couldn’t be anything too big, I’d left plenty of time anyway.
It was chaos.
Pretty much all of the trains were delayed or cancelled. Some trains would arrive, people would jump on, then they would cancel the train and we’d all trudge back onto the platform, exasperated. In the end I had to get a rail replacement bus half way there and then a train for the other half. When it became apparent that I was going to be late I tried to call the interviewer but could not get through to him. I arrived an hour and a half late, did the interview, and got the job!
Another time was when I went straight after work to visit my friend in Wales. The train was horribly delayed already and then it got stuck somewhere for an hour because there was a freight train in the wrong place. There were three trains all lined up on the platform, all going to the same place, just waiting for the track to get unblocked. Luckily I was sat right next to the food trolley (the train was too busy for him to move down the aisles) so I could order food and drink whenever I fancied it. Once the trolley man could move down the train, he gave out everything for free. I am not really sure why but it seemed to be because it had reached a certain time, maybe everything was going to get thrown away.
It was also noteworthy because the train manager guy (conductor?) was really good throughout the whole thing. I even heard him say that they were going to terminate the train in Bristol, which would have meant me desperately trying to find another train to take me the last little bit of the journey. But he said that he would stay on and get the train to Wales, I could have hugged him. When I got to my friends I was in a slightly crazy, tired, manic state and I don’t think I have ever been so happy to reach my destination.
Another happened fairly recently. I was going straight from work to my hometown to see my cousin. A lecturer at the college, D, who often gets the same bus as me was meeting his friends just outside my hometown, so was going to be changing at that station.
The bus got stuck down the skinny country roads it almost always gets stuck down so we got to the station late. When I went to buy my train ticket there was a sign on the ticket machine that said something like there is severe disruption at the moment, we advise you not to travel. It was not helpful advice. We waited at the platform and were happy to see that the train we thought we had missed was delayed and hadn’t arrived yet!
Unfortunately, there were so many people on the platform that once the train arrived there was no room for everyone and we couldn’t get on the train! We would have to get the train that was not direct. So that’s what we did. We got to the next station to change trains and got on our second train. It didn’t move.
There was some problem and the train couldn’t go yet. Then the announcer said that if we wanted to go to the station we were aiming for that we should get the train at the other platform that had just arrived. We ran to the other train and sat down, exhausted. D and I discussed how much easier this journey would have been in a car.
We got to my hometown and I waved D off as he ran to another platform to catch his train and I headed to my mums house. The next week he told me that his train had been delayed and he didn’t get to where he was going until 9 (we left the college at 5!). It was an ordeal, but a bit of a bonding experience. Sometimes having almost everything go wrong is a good opportunity to get to know someone a bit better.
So this isn’t really a moan about public transport, it’s just noting that it is not quite the end of the world if my train is delayed or cancelled. I’ll probably get there eventually, and I might have an interesting time.