Weekly Update: How I Avoided Getting Ripped-Off by the Railway

Valentine’s Day was badly timed, for me, this year. I have two seminars a week: one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday, so pretty much any day other than Tuesday or Wednesday would have been good. But no. It had to be on Tuesday.

Now, V Day isn’t a massive deal for me and J. We don’t do presents or cards. We don’t generally go out for a meal. We just like to spend some time together. That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

So I got the train down on Tuesday after my seminar, arriving in Manchester at about 10.30pm. That was all fine, except I had to spend some of the time on a Virgin train and they make me queasy. Although I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as last time. I only felt really nauseous when the train rolled around corners in that sickening way.

My train on Thursday was at 7.45am. Not too bad except I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by my previous successful and unflustered early-morning-train-catching-ability (when I returned from seeing J for his birthday). The result of which being I didn’t arrive at the station until 7.42am and of course, my platform was miles away. J was confused, thinking the platform I wanted was the one next to the escalator, the first one I had to run along/over to get to mine, so couldn’t understand why I wanted to run rather than kiss him goodbye because he didn’t think my train was there, yet. It was there and when I got to the right platform, it wasn’t. So I ran to the nearest member of staff for a panicked demand of confirmation that I had, in fact, missed my train. I had but the man said, don’t worry, you can just catch the next. I had one of those cheap, advance, time-specific tickets so I knew I couldn’t, not without someone writing me a note (which someone has done for me, before.) Unfortunately, he consulted another member of staff, a woman. From the way she glanced up at me, I knew there was no chance. I would have to buy another ticket.

The woman marched me over to a till by the platform where she found the details for the next train. It wouldn’t arrive in Leuchars until 1.23pm. My seminar was at 2pm. Seeing as I’d then have to catch a bus to St Andrews, I knew I wouldn’t make the seminar on time. Also, the ticket cost £80. The woman manning the till sympathised with me, saying she was always late and she didn’t think it was right to take advantage, but the original woman was having none of it. I bought the ticket, what else could I do, and called J to see if he was still about because the next train wasn’t due for an hour, so I might as well spend that hour with him.

When I reached J, I told him what had happened, and he said ‘why don’t I just drive you up? It’ll be cheaper and faster.’ I considered this. Did I really want to give the railway a further £80, on top of the £60-something I’d already spent? No. Why should one seat on a train cost so much, anyway? It was ridiculous. And I wouldn’t stand for it. So I got my ticket refunded and set off with J.

It was neither cheaper nor faster and I was half an hour late for my seminar. But the main thing is, I did not allow the railway to rip me off. And there’s an important lesson in that, for all of us.

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