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If They’re Willing, There’s Usually A Way, Part 2

, , , , , | Working | June 24, 2022

I entered a 200-km Audax (non-competitive cycling event), and I have a day return train ticket from London. I am just recovering from a broken clavicle, and it turns out this ride is a bit much for me at my current level of fitness. When I realise I am not going to finish the ride in time to qualify, I slow down and wend my gentle way back to the station to take me home.

I am hungry and tired and the temperature is dropping. I find I have missed the last train back to London, but no worries; it’s only four hours until the first morning train, so I can just curl up in the waiting room until it comes. It’s warm enough, and I am so tired that I will probably have a nice sleep. My biggest concern is whether I need a new ticket.

A train employee comes in and asks me where I am going. I tell her London. She points to the depart board where there is only one train, heading away from London, arriving in a little while. She tells me once that train departs, the station will close until the first train in the morning. She looks very concerned and walks away. 

I am too tired to be worried. I know it’s impossible after midnight to book a hotel room online for the same night, and the idea of cycling around to find a hotel with a manned reception or calling random hotels sounds harder than the alternative of just finding a bus shelter and curling up until the station reopens. I won’t die at 3°C, and I am unlikely to come to harm. It’s been a hard day, and it’s just going to be a little harder.

Meanwhile, my heroine is apparently more worried than I am. Maybe she knows her town better than I do and doesn’t want to leave a woman sleeping rough near the train station. Or maybe I just look as pathetic as I feel. Whatever the reason, she has obviously been thinking hard about how to keep me safe or warm or both.

Train Worker: “I’ve worked out what you should do. Catch the train to Peterborough. When it gets there, just stay where you are. An hour later, it will leave again, coming back through Stevenage and on to London. I will let the guard on board know what you are doing.”

So that was it. A concerned rail worker went out of her way to make sure I was warm and safe the whole way back to London. I even got enough sleep to make the cycle from Kings Cross station to my home pleasant — London before six is a delightful place to cycle. She was so careful of my welfare that it would not have surprised me if she was considering inviting me into her home before alighting on a better solution.

I filled in a very positive customer feedback form, which was actually rather difficult, as the form assumed I was making a complaint! Oh, and the gates were open when I got to London, so I didn’t have to buy a new ticket.

If They’re Willing, There’s Usually A Way

You Can’t Cross Stubbornness Like This

, , , , , , | Right | April 14, 2022

At the railway station where I work, a nearby level crossing is being closed for a few days for essential maintenance. A woman comes into the station looking cross.

Woman: “What does that sign mean?”

Me: “Uh, sorry, what sign?”

Woman: “The one on the crossing gates saying it’ll be closed from Friday to Tuesday night.”

Me: “Oh, yes. It means that the crossing will be closed due to maintenance from Friday at about 7:00 pm until sometime on Tuesday afternoon.”

Woman: “Does that apply to me?”

Me: “If you use the crossing, yes. You’ll need to walk to [Next Crossing] or drive your car down [Street] and cross at the big crossing.”

Woman: “So, it doesn’t apply to me?”

Me: “Not if you don’t use it, no.”

Woman: “I use it twice a day.”

Me: “Then it applies to you. You’ll have to use the crossings either side.”

Woman: “No, I don’t think it means that.”

Me: “Well, yes, it does. The crossing will be closed.”

Woman: “No, it means that trains won’t be able to go past. They’ll use the big crossing.”

Me: “No, the trains will continue on this line as normal. The crossing will be closed to pedestrians and cars. You had a letter about it a few weeks ago.”

Woman: “I put that in the bin because it doesn’t apply to me.”

Me: “If you use the crossing, it does apply to you.”

Woman: “No, it only applies to other people using the crossing. I’ll still be able to use it. The sign is confusing.”

Me: “Nobody can use the crossing.”

Woman: “Nobody else can use the crossing. I understand that. But the sign should say that. Why doesn’t it?”

Me: “Because it applies to you, as well. Nobody can use the crossing. Nobody at all. It’ll be closed.”

Woman: “Then you’ll need to tell people that. The sign suggests it applies to everybody.”

Me: “It does apply to everybody, including you.”

Woman: “No, it doesn’t. It means there’ll be no trains and nobody except me can cross.”

Me: “Well, give it a try on Friday night and see how that works out.”

Woman: “You are no help at all!”

She stormed out. I was told by a colleague that the police had to be called on Monday morning because someone smashed a car into the new crossing gates that had just been put in and were being tested, coming to rest on the railway line. All the trains had to be stopped for a few hours.

She was charged with dangerous driving and the railway applied to have the crossing permanently closed.

If They’re Willing, There’s Usually A Way

, , , , , | Working | April 4, 2022

Two or three times a year, I take the train back to my hometown to visit family. It’s always the same route: a long trip to a city in my home state and a short trip from that city to the station nearest my parents’ house. One year, I decide to take the earliest possible trip, which leaves around 6:30 am. I don’t have a car, but there’s a bus that will take me to the train station with plenty of time to spare, so I don’t think anything of it.

Except… the bus never comes. I check the transportation department’s app only to find the early morning route listed as CANCELLED for no reason. No worries. I rush to another stop for a route that also goes in that direction, only to find that this bus came ten minutes EARLY, and I’ve missed it, too. I have to wait for the next one, as the station is too far to walk, but already I’m getting nervous and checking my options. My train is taking the same route two more times today, but naturally, the price is twice what it was when I bought my tickets in advance, and I’m not sure how many tickets are left.

The third bus does arrive, and when I reach the train station, I see my train listed as “Last boarding call.” I rush toward the platform… just in time to see it pull away. I go to the ticket booth, instead. My first impression of the attendant is that she seems a bit sleepy and probably wishes she didn’t have to deal with flustered people this early in the morning. I’m a little embarrassed to explain the situation, even though I know it happens a lot; I generally have things planned well in advance, so I’m not used to this happening to ME.

Me: “Hi, I just missed my train. Is it possible for me to get on another one today?”

The attendant takes my information.

Station Attendant: “Okay… it looks like there’s another [Train #1] leaving for [City] at 12:05 and a connecting train between [City] and [Town] that will get in at 5:05. Unfortunately, it’ll be $140 if you purchase a one-way ticket at this time. Is that okay?”

Me: “Yeah, if that’s all there is, I can make it work.”

Station Attendant: “Hold on, let me check something.”

She spends a few minutes typing and frowns.

Station Attendant: “Hm. So, there is a [Train #2] that leaves for [City] in forty minutes, but there is no earlier connection, so you would still have to wait in [City] from about 11:30 to 4:00.”

Me: “Actually, that would be amazing. I’m pretty sure my ride wouldn’t mind picking me up straight from [City].”

Station Attendant: “Oh, okay, cool. And if you’re only taking one train today, I can apply the cost of your transfer ticket to the new ticket. So, instead of charging you $140, it’ll only be…” *More typing* “Oh, you get a dollar back.”

Me: “Seriously?”

Station Attendant: “Yup!”

Sleepy or not, the attendant really came through for me. She had me sign something to authorize the return, and printed out new tickets. Instead of paying extra money and sitting around for five hours waiting for the train — no way I was taking the bus to and from my place again — I had just enough time to catch my breath and get a cup of coffee, and in the end, my arrival was only an hour later than expected. As for my dad, who was my ride, he was more than happy to pick me up in [City]; the station was around the corner from his all-time favorite pizza place.

Rolling With The Punches

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | March 21, 2022

I’ve been staying with a friend in Cardiff and have just arrived at the station to catch my train home. An international rugby match has recently finished, and the traffic caused by this meant it took longer than anticipated to get to the station, and I’m in real danger of missing my train. As such, I am sprinting full pelt through the concourse, carrying my overnight bag over my shoulder.

As I run, I approach a group of rugby fans walking in the opposite direction. One of them, evidently thinking they’re about to pull the prank of the century, jumps out in front of me, yelling, “Boo!”

There’s absolutely no way I can stop in time, and I barrel straight into the hapless moron, sending him flying. I lose my balance, too, but somehow maintain my forward momentum, turn my stumble into a roll, get back to my feet, and continue on my way.

Behind me, I hear my wannabe roadblock protesting that I’ve hurt him, but one of his friends, laughing, tells him off for being a d**k and says that it was his own d*** fault.

That Dispatcher’s As Cold As The Weather

, , , , | Working | March 3, 2022

I was living alone in a student apartment on campus while getting formal education as an adult. It was winter, our half-year exams were over, and our class went into town to have a little celebration for surviving them.

We stayed very long; it was later than 1:00 am when I decided to go back to my apartment. I was the only one in our group living there, so I went alone on the tram. The stop for my school was the last one in the city, so that late at night, it was pretty lonely, and the tram was the last going there. The next one wouldn’t come until 6:00 am.

When I left the tram and walked along the tracks to the school buildings, which were dark and mostly empty since almost everyone else had already left for the holidays, I noticed something bundled in the little tram shelter. I took out my mobile and used my light to see what it was.

It was a rather big and burly man sitting on the bench. He had sagged against the side of the shelter and he looked fast asleep. His clothes were neat and clean; he didn’t look like a homeless man settled in for the night but like someone who’d fallen asleep while waiting for the tram. He reeks strongly of alcohol and his face is red and has that look drunk people get when the muscles relax. I guess he’d been out to party, too.

I have had very bad experiences with drunk people. I do drink alcohol moderately but I don’t get drunk for exactly that reason. I wouldn’t want to be the angry drunk I’ve experienced in my past.

I had no way to know how that stranger would react if I woke him and he learned that he had missed the last tram, so I decided to call 112 and ask the emergency dispatch what to do. It was winter, after all, and the temperature was below freezing. I couldn’t just let that guy sit there and freeze to death in his sleep.

The tone of the dispatcher I got was very grumpy and rough from the start, even before I told him why I was calling.

Dispatcher: “Here’s Mr. [Dispatcher] from emergency services. What is your emergency?”

Me: “I’m here at the opposite street of the tram stop [number], and there’s a man asleep in the shelter. It seems he is very drunk. Could you send someone to look after him? I don’t want him to freeze.”

Dispatcher: “Mmhmm…” *Clicking in the background* “That’s pretty far out of the city. What are you doing there?

Me: “I’m living on campus at [School]. I’m on my way home.”

Dispatcher: “Could it be that he’s from there, too?”

Me: “Not that I know of. At least, I’ve never seen him on campus.”

Dispatcher: “You’re sure you don’t know him?”

Me: “Yes, I’m pretty sure.”

Dispatcher: “Why didn’t the tram driver get out and help him?”

Me: “Probably because he didn’t see the man. The shelter isn’t lit. I only saw him when I turned on my light on my mobile phone to look inside the shelter.”

Dispatcher: “Well, then, that’s what we’ll do. Just go up there and shake him.”

Me: “Pardon me? I definitely won’t do that!”

Dispatcher: “Listen, you’re required by law to provide help if someone is in distress! Just go there and wake him!”

Me: “I’m not required by law to endanger myself! I am 165 cm tall (~5’4”) and I’m alone around here! It’s in the middle of the night and no one can help me! That man is easily twice my weight and is much taller than me, and the way he reeks, he’s drunk! I’ll definitely not go there and shake him! Send a police car!”

The dispatcher tried to argue around some more, getting more and more irate that I was not willing to meddle with a drunk stranger on my own in the middle of nowhere past midnight. He kept trying to guilt-trip me in every way possible except open legal threats. Finally, he agreed to send a police car, and I agreed to stay on the sidewalk opposite the tram stop until they came to direct them to the man.

It only took minutes for a police car to come toward me; they must have been really close.

I waved at them and they stopped next to me. I pointed them toward the man, and one of them stayed with me while the other approached the man.

Police Officer: “It’s a good thing that you called the emergency line. It’s freezing out here!”

Me: “Well, your dispatcher seemed to think otherwise.”

And I told him what had happened.

Police Officer: “No, no, no! That won’t do! If he really is drunk, he could’ve attacked you! And you’re out here all alone! Just call 112; they’ll call us and we’ll help!”

He then took my number in case there were any more questions and crossed the street to his partner who was already calling out to the man, trying to wake him. I stayed a little longer and saw the first officer gently shaking the man’s shoulder, and lo and behold, the man startled awake and almost shoved the officer!

But he soon calmed down and they spoke to him. I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The man then got on his feet but he was staggering; obviously, he was very drunk.

The officer who talked to me waved at me and I waved back before turning to walk toward the campus. Soon, the police car drove along slowly. When I turned to look at them, I saw them looking back at me. The officer who spoke to me gave me a thumb up. They slowly drove along with me until they see me entering the campus. When I put the key in the rooming house’s door, they flashed the front lights of their car and drove on. They waited until they saw me get into the building.

The next day, I got a call from an unknown number. The woman who called me told me she had reviewed the dispatch call after the police officer made a complaint. She apologized profusely and told me that I had, indeed, made the right call and that I didn’t have to risk a confrontation with a stranger in the middle of the night.