So my conspiracy theory is that Shell, Esso and BP sponsor our county council to ensure that there is always at least one set of complex roadworks making town ‘bastable’1 – that’s ‘not quite impassable’.I imagine council bastabling clerks rushing around busy corridors clutching files, coffee and other essentials coordinating with others to ensure that easy passage in and out of the city is almost impossible. This is probably also why our flagship polished turd, the guided bus, is still not open yet: the contractor’s bastabling executives are working closely with the council’s until further delays are utterly implausible.
It is the basabling of the roads alongside the rock bottom quality of some of our bus services that resulted in an altogether non-optimal journey into the country’s capital this morning. After running for the bus, which left without me even though I was a matter of seconds from the door, my rising annoyance was reduced dramatically by the arrival of another bus. Wooohoooo! So instead of rushing through a maze of shortcuts to an alternative bus stop that would have given me more options, I waited patiently whilst the smiling bus driver completed his smoke and texting break assured that I would, unless the traffic was really bad, catch my train. After ten minutes, he opened the bus door to inform me he was in fact out of service. This noise:
… accurately describes the sound of steam escaping from my ears. I could actually hear my jaw drop to the floor in utter astonishment that he could have left me and another passenger standing there like lemons before breaking the news to us.
So I ran to the alternative bus stop. Eventually a bus turned up, stretching the “due in 2 minutes” to a massive man-sized quarter of an hour (the helpful screen to show you how long a bus is from arrival is powered by three drunk monkeys who spend most their time fondling each other’s parts, smearing crap over the control panels and cackling hysterically whilst drinking banana vodka). Well, there was still hope, if all the traffic lights were green. And rejoice! The crowd went wild with hope as light after light went green and because, as usual, three busses had turned up at once so we leapfrogged each other into town only stopping at one out of every three stops! Of course, the art of quality bastabling is to shatter your sense of hope at the very, very last minute leading you to believe that this was a once off and that one shouldn’t generalise this to all trips: after all, if we gave up completely, then that would not do. And today’s hope shattering was achieved care of a fantastically placed set of gas works.
I decided to make another run for it. The station was about a kilometer away and I still had nearly ten minutes. Now, as my friends know, getting fit is a continual work in progress – by which I mean that I am working on making some progress – so this was some effort, particularly when lugging a notebook computer around. Still, I made it. With 30 seconds to spare.
One most excellent and most productive meeting later, I find myself sitting here on the train to go home. In common with most trains in the UK, this one isn’t going anywhere and the tickets are whoppingly overpriced. It is about a quarter to six in the evening and this train is packed. It is packed because there are not enough seats and it is rush hour in our fine capital. The lady opposite me is doing paperwork. The bloke next to her is on the phone and shouting and screaming sufficiently loudly that I am using visual sarcasm to try and inform him of his loudness (I tell you, I wouldn’t want to be Andy, whoever he is, tomorrow morning). Next to me, some guy is editing a spreadsheet that looks really, really fucking tedious. Work is finished. Most the people on this train, including those who appear to be happy to pay a full price ticket and be forced to stand, are working. I’m relieved to say that I don’t have to do this every day. For so many people, the working day creeps, insidiously, into their spare time until it is all consuming. Life’s too short for this day in, day out, and I’d hate to miss out on the good bits, like Baby Cobra growing up. I wonder what all these people are missing out on. I wonder if it is worth it.
Imagine, if you will, some wavy lines. About an hour and a half has passed and I should be at home. However, the bus portion of the journey home – the final leg – topped off the cake of broken dreams with an icing of deadly poison. The busses are ‘up to every ten minutes’ which invariably means three at once every half an hour or so as it was this morning. Today, four arrived at once and I have to say that I feel special to have witnessed that. I would tell my friends but I doubt it would even raise an eyebrow.
There is something inherently wrong with a lifestyle that revolves around the stresses of low-quality travel on a regular basis. Granted, it’s not always this bad but it’s rarely the way that it should be. The trains around here do, usually, run approximately on time. Needless to say, this doesn’t excuse the fact that capacity is too low at rush hour and that the ticket price is verging on outrageous and that the local company’s slogan, “transforming train travel”, needs the addition of “… into bus travel” at the weekends. During the week, though, they do know how to operate a timetable to within acceptable margins. The busses, which have plenty of capacity, have little comprehension of either timetables or customer service – they actually make RyanAir look like shining beacons of first-class travel.
On my arrival home, I will be opening the emergency bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Castle Nine Popes, as I incorrectly, but lovingly, refer to it) that I keep for precisely this sort of emergency.
You only live once, try not to give it to the public transport network, eh?
1 Bastable, adjective, meaning not quite impassable. I’d love to claim credit for this, but actually, it comes from a Not the None O’Clock News comedy show’s 1982 calendar. Now I feel really old.