Earlier this year husband and I were in the UK, and after making the decision to not hire a car, we relied on public transport to get us around. For us, the chance to jump on and off trains and enjoy the local bus service as we sped across the country was pure delight. I don’t even need a hand to count the amount of times we’ve used a train, or a bus in South Africa. We/I just don’t do it.
Anyway, mostly in the UK we were heading to places within a couple of hours of where we were staying. And while we were highly competent in boarding and disembarking with ease, due to automatic doors – aren’t they so clever? – and allowing people ahead to do the honours, one day it didn’t go to plan.
For the life of me, our destination that day has left me, but wherever it was the requirement was to change trains several times. Easy peasy lemon squeezy? Ah, no. Total embarrassment and hysteria more like.
So there we were loving the rocking motion of the train as green fields flew by, wooly sheep munched grass, cows moo-ched around, industrial areas tarnished the landscape, and let us not forget the occasional buffet car announcement regarding delightful snacks and hot drinks that to be fair should have been left behind, and never ever brought within an mile of the station.
The general rule of thumb with train trips, as we all know, is the train stops, you get off as fast as you can, as in max 1 or 2 minutes before they leave again, and then you run like a looney for your next train, arms flaying, face white, gums exposed as you fight for breath – erm, sorry, that’s probably just me. Failing this of course, you’ll be singing to the conductor on the platform “wish me luck as you wave me goodbye” because there is no way you’re getting off that train until the next station a gazillion miles away. Why you only get a minute of two before the train goes is beyond me. Do you think it has something to do with raising cardio levels for those with little time for the gym?
Well this particular day husband and I had thawed out – you do remember we were in the UK in Spring? – we’d eaten a pretty darn awful bacon butty, washed it down with coffee strong enough to curl our toes, and sufficiently burnt our gullets in the process. I thought British Rail drinks were supposed to be lukewarm? Do you have to order it this way? You know sort of along the lines of having a skinny latte with wings, as opposed to requesting “coffee to go love please.”
Where were we? Yes, about to disembark. We were ready, tickets clutched in hands. We smiled at each other, as we do when we know the sprint is about to take place, and headed to the door. Alone. Nobody else was in our carriage. I checked my ticket about 256 times to be sure we were getting off at the right station. We were. I checked it again.
Train stopped. Fellow travellers began to spill out of other carriages. Our door did not open. We looked at each other. Panic reared its head and I swear my bacon butty was readying itself to appear. Sweat began to form.
“Open the door.”
“Where’s the handle?”
“I don’t know.”
By now we were banging on the window, hands and fists, shouting for anybody to help us.
“Why won’t it open?”
“I don’t know, it just won’t.”
“We have to get off.”
“Is there a sign showing you how?”
“Open the window, try to use the handle outside.”
“How do you open the window?”
Teeth were bared and eyes were wide with fear.
Have you ever seen those crazy programs where people are trapped behind glass while everybody else stands there watching, nudging each other, pointing and rolling their eyes? Well let me tell you, it’s true, they really do do that. Even the conductor on the platform who was raising his whistle to send the train on its way.
“We’ve got to get off.” We continued to shout and bang and wave our tickets. We must have looked like right charlies.
“HELP!” we shouted, rather loudly. Anybody would have thought we were trying to escape a crazed loon.
Well I don’t know how long this went of for, but however long it was, it was too long. How either of us didn’t end up requiring oxygen is anybody’s business.
So how did we get out?
The bloody door opened by itself! I swear, we did nothing. There was the usual hiss and clunk and lo and behold we were free.
We bolted, hit the platform, laughed a little awkwardly and joined our fellow commuters as if nothing had even happened.
And what you may be asking did we learn from this?
Easy, we are a couple of idiots!