Sometimes I feel like a dysfunctional travel correspondent. My tales always seem to involve the extraordinary. I’ve been abandoned on aeroplanes, been refused assistance at train stations and once threatened with arrest for trying to buy a ticket at journeys end because I couldn’t operate the ticket machine at the start of my journey. My reply: “Fine, while you’re calling the police I’ll call the Daily Mail”.
My tactic at railway stations is to go to the ticket office and if the queue is likely to take longer than fifteen minutes look for a customer service rep to operate the ticket machine for me. It’s not failsafe.
I did this at Liverpool Street station and ended up with a ticket that cost more than double the usual cost. Time was marching on so other than joining the queue, that I probably didn’t have enough water to sustain me through, I’d have to swallow the cost and get on the train.
Two revenue inspectors sat next to me so I quizzed them: The ticket machine was not set up to sell me the ticket I needed and the only way to avoid the inflated cost was to go to the ticket office and queue, but if I went to the ticket office at Shenfield I could change the ticket.
As we filled in the forms, did the money exchange, got the contactless payment to work, I got a text from the friend who was picking me up. “What are you doing in there?” “I’ve been driving round the block waiting for you.” The Rolls Canardly (a vehicle that rolls down hills and can hardly get up them) has the turning circle of a small bus. She was not happy.
Essex is a much under rated county but road works took us to parts I have not been to before. By the time we sat down to breakfast there were people ordering lunch.
The friend and I can chat. By the time I set out for home it had to go smoothly because the Flat Mate was doing supper which meant I needed to buy the supper and prepare it because that is the deal when the Flat Mate does supper. She’s not one for cooking. I was now running late.
On the jubilee line, the announcement system wasn’t working so I asked the man next to me if he could tell me where we were at the next station. “No problem,” he said. “Bermondsey”. I unfolded my cane in readiness for London Bridge.
As I got to the door a man, slightly the worse for ware, said, “is there anything I can do to help you?” then he planted his hand on my left breast. “No.” Pace was now the order of the day.
As I got to the stairs he asked me again. Was he following me? “No,” I said. At the escalator he said, “Are you sure there is nothing I can do for you?” “No,” I said and got on the escalator. “You really are a very independent little thing,” he said and made a clicking sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth before vanishing.
A ticketing system that works has been promised for years and still hasn’t materialised. Helpful travellers can save you from missing your stop. Nothing could save me from a drunken touch up. Would it have happened if I was not using my cane?