Being sad-pad poor-people, we only have one car – and that is a battered wreck that we are becoming angry with because it refuses to die and offer us an excuse to finally upgrade to a higher-powered roller-skate.
This transportation tribulation means I often rely on public conveyance. In England, relying on public transport is a bit like relying on heroin to provide your daily vitamins.
Drive past a bus-stop anywhere in England and you will see sallow-faced people who have clearly lost all their fight and are wasting away, having forgotten what they are waiting for yet unable to leave and let go the half-remembered dream. Some of them are addicts sheltering from the cold, the rest are just waiting for a bus. You cannot tell them apart.
I just had the delight of needing to get home late on a cold evening and have experienced every flavour of despair and rage that the Great British travel experience has to offer.
First of all I waited for a bus. It was bloody freezing but I’d wrapped up warm – I am a Panda after-all – and thank god I did, as it consequently wasn’t until forty minutes after the bus was due that I lost all sensation in my feet.
I realised that if I waited much longer I’d miss my connecting train and be stuck for the whole night. It was, then, with reluctance that I was forced to phone a friend and beg a lift into the city. The whole point of getting the bus was to allow said friend to retire, weary as they were, and not have to venture into the sub-zero night.
Of course I am British, so this was not as smooth as it appears. From when the bus was about twenty minutes late until I called my friend I played my favourite indecision dance. Should I call for a lift? Or will the bus get here as soon as I do? What if I get a lift and we pass the bus on the way, then I’ll feel a proper git for not waiting a little longer?! The bus is always late, fifteen minutes last time I caught it, so it may still come? But if I leave it another five minutes, that’s five more minutes in which my friend may have gone to bed, and five minutes later that they’ll get home from giving me a lift.
Imagine if you will that this is the calm end of the mental dance. As the minutes ticked on I moved from a worrying waltz to a frenzied fandango.
I have a Dumbphone, which is supposed to be a smartphone but is cheap and entirely shit. It was useful only in making me even angrier as it failed to get a good signal and then took a full five minutes to display any web-page. I couldn’t find any bus information before patience ran out and I was in danger of shoving the phone up my own arse for want of a proximate stranger to take my rage out on. I did at least discover that all the connecting trains were also running late, so I would probably still get one if ever a bus showed up.
To my delight, after thirty minutes of waiting a sallow and clearly wasted drunk showed up, stared at the timetable and then turned round to inform me that *Bus company* were a bunch of C, F and B in various proportions. This at least broke up the monotony of feeling my extremities slowly turn to ice. I wished they could have turned up while I was having phone-rage, and I felt the pathos of the fact that they would never know how close they’d come to some extremely unexpected events in their bottom region.
After all this I was dropped at the train station, where I was delighted to find an up-turn in events. The 9.20 was running late, and would now arrive at 9.45 – only two minutes away! Joy!
So it was I waited, feeling the beginnings of serious pee-urge as my bladder had thawed out a little and was able to signal again. There was no way I was walking across the bridge and to the toilets, as the train was bound to turn up as I did so. Instead, guess what I did? Yes… I danced again. By 9.57 no train had arrived, and the board had gone from displaying some estimated arrival time of X minutes late, to simply showing ‘delayed’. Now I had no idea when the train would get here and an increasing need to pee. Should I go? Should I wait? Should I just stand here and piss myself as a form of protest against the crapness of our train service? Maybe they’d take me away in an ambulance as a loon and I could persuade them to drive me all the way home?
The thawing effects of my friends car were now giving way to the ice-cold of the station platform. It was probably this which was the deciding factor in not protesting through a damp-trouser disaster. I was, then, overjoyed to see the train finally pull into the station and I bustled on board where it was not very warm but at least not windy.
You are asked not to use the toilets while the train is in the station, and we would be setting off very soon, so I sat and waited.
From my window seat I could see the display board which assured me this train would be setting off four minutes ago. Splendid.
Later, when the board said we would be leaving fifteen minutes ago, I didn’t feel quite so delighted. When, five minutes after this the train manager announced that we’d broken down and would all have to leave the train I was pissed off. Well, I was holding in a lot of piss actually – so perhaps I should say I was bloody livid!
I’d left my friends at 8.30 and it was now 10.35. The whole journey normally takes an hour, maybe 80 minutes.
Never mind. The train announcer assured us that another service, the 9.48, would be arriving in just two minutes on the other side of the platform.
At 10.46, when the arrival time again flipped from an estimate to just ‘delayed’, I was ready to kill. I’d spent ten minutes trying to explain to a German woman who had no real English what the hell was going on. I don’t actually know the German for, “Britain is a hopeless pile of disco-ordinated wildebeest effluent,” so I just did what I could.
Then I spent an interminable time listening to a pair of posh pricks trying to chat-up a girl who was clearly at least a decade too young for either of them, even being kind. I was still trying to work out how I could piss myself, allow it all to freeze in stalactites depending from my crotch, and then snap one of them off to bury in the eye of Posh Bloke number one, when the f*ing train arrived. And so a life was saved.
This train actually left the station. Indeed it trundled the whole merry way home as if this were a normal occurrence. Time to celebrate, yes? Almost.
The remaining wrinkle in this festival of withering shite was that when the train pulled away, and I could at last visit the little Panda’s room, it proved to be out of order! I thus spent the whole journey fidgeting like a badly withdrawn addict at a bus-stop until I reached the now-closed toilets at the station, before practically running the rest of the way to my door and unleashing torrents of piss and verbal abuse to my semi-conscious lady-Panda, who had been ‘with me’ all the way via the medium of text-rants!
So if you should see a Panda on a shiny new moped any time soon, you’ll know why!