Schrödinger’s train

Hello dear reader

I trust today finds you hale and hearty and full of the joys[1] of spring.

tracks

Today’s post is brought to you by what we laughingly refer to as the train service[2] which meant that the 08.08 train (my usual mode of transport into the office) was delayed until 08.18 and comprised of not five but TWO carriages.

And I had positioned myself in such a spot that, had the usual 5 carriage train arrived, I would have been stood directly in front of the door[3], but as it was a two carriage train, I was at precisely the last point you’d want to be if you wanted to, I dunno, get on the train.[4]

The train was full. So very, very full.

So full that I gave up. No manner of tapping on windows and encouraging people to move down (not that there was much room to move down into) meant that I found myself at the opposite end of the platform to the guard. We exchanged a meaningful look, I shrugged a shrug of defeat, and he hopped back aboard and the train set off.

Then the 08.20 train was cancelled[5].

And the 08.50 train was delayed. As was the 09.04.

So I set off for the bus. Which took so long to arrive that I was exactly at the point of deciding whether to give up and go back for the delayed train when it hove into view.
I was conflicted. Should I:

a.   get on this actual bus which was actually here and actually heading into Leeds, or
b.   head back to the station to catch the delayed potential 08.50 train which may (or may not) arrive, but if it did, would get me to work about 15 minutes earlier than this actually here, actual bus.

Schrödinger’s transport. You never know what will actually happen until the train actually arrives.

I got the bus.

[1] actual levels of joy may vary and may, in some cases, be entirely absent.
[2] actual levels of service may vary, and may…. oh, you get the idea.
[3] years of practice mean I’m *really* good at this game. To the point where if I’m a foot out, I get cross.
[4] you can tell where this is going, can’t you?
[5] of course

trains

I was late for my train home the other night so found myself at the station in that weird dead spot you get around half-past five where the 5 o’clock finishers have all gone and the people who finish work at half past haven’t made it as far as the station yet. It’s odd – the station goes from bustling and heaving with hordes of people to being really quiet, if only briefly.

I’ve caught this later train a couple of times in the past. It’s the Sheffield train, leaving Leeds at 17.48, but oddly arrives half an hour early and sits on the platform, with the lights off.

There are usually a couple of people waiting to get on the train. As it’s so early, and there’s no sign of the guard, people tend to loiter near-ish to the doors, but not right up next to them, as they do on the early trains.

Look, I did a diagram. Take a moment to admire my fearsome artistic skills. Yes the other red line bit is another door, and the big blue block is another carriage, but by this point in the art I’d kind of started losing the will to live as I’d done something weird with layers. I digress.

train1

ok, you can stop admiring it now. The green blobs are the people who’ve arrived before me. I’m the slightly larger (those art skillz at work again) blue blob. As you can see, I’ve taken up a position nearish to the door, but behind the people who’ve already arrived. This *is* Britain. We queue properly here, even when no actual queue exists. No-one wants to go and stand next to the train door, as that looks a bit keen and needy. We’re being kind, and leaving sufficent room for people to get past along the platform.

After a while, a few more people turn up. We move into the phase of waiting where surreptitious eye-contact is made, with everyone marking their space and the order of the virtual non-queue. All is well at this point. We check our phones or read a book.

train2

Then this happens:

train3

That purple star? That’s someone who has turned up after everyone else in the not-a-queue queue and has taken up a position not only in front of the door but in front of everyone else who was there first.

Now, I know we weren’t properly queueing, and there was a gap and everything, but what are they thinking? This is a blatant breach of queue ettiquette!

The green dots and myself exchange eye contact with each other, silently fuming at this ne’er-do-well interloper in his skinny jeans, plaid shirt and post-ironic hipster hornrims.

Look. He’s started a trend, the miscreant.  

train4

See? More people have noted this blatant act of queue disregardation and join in, standing next to the doors. Those of us who were here first exchange glances, and start shuffling, taking a step forward, subtly jockeying for position. After all, we were here first. We need to get on this train! We want a seat, dammit!

No matter that there are currently about a dozen people waiting for two carriages worth of empty train, it’s the principle of the thing!

We watch out of the corner of our eyes as the driver ambles down the platform, bag slung over one shoulder. He breezes past us and gets into the driver’s compartment. The train whirrs and chugs into life. Lights go on inside the carriages and this happens.

train5

Everyone has given up on the whole queue thing, and bodies press together, eyes all fixed on the little circular door open button which resolutely remains un-lit. No-one dares look at each other. Phones are returned to pockets and bags as we all wait for…

The button lights. A hand jabs out at it, the pressee wanting to avoid the shame of taking more than half a second between the button lighting up and being pressed. We’re all judging how quickly this is done, and this time he’s passed the test. The doors open and we surge as one onto the train.

The weird thing is, once we’re all on there are plenty of seats to go around. I end up with that nirvana of train travel, a table seat. Not only that, but a table seat with no-one else sat at the table.

Bliss. What’s all the fuss about?

trains

Permit me, if you will, a small rant about trains.

Well, not strictly about trains, per se. More about train tickets. Travel passes in particular.

I’ve got an annual travel pass for my commute to work. It costs, as you’d expect, quite a lot of money.

Why then does the blasted thing stop working so quickly?

Seriously, I’ve had about ten replacements so far this year. Sometimes the new pass lasts for a couple of months, other times it’s packed in after about a week. This latest one? Ten days.

Now, I’ve never had a problem getting a new pass from the station, but inevitably get a comment along the lines of “oh, that’s not lasted long, has it?”

No. No it hasn’t. Now, why do you think that might be?

And it’s pain having to get in early enough to have time to go and queue up to get a replacement.

I’m really careful with the pass. It lives in the plastic folder they gave me, in my bag. Away from anything magentic which might affect it.
As my pass often isn’t working in the machines, I have to queue up to wave my pass at the guy manning the barriers. One of them, without fail, asks everyone in the queue to put their ticket through the barrier before he’ll swipe them through.

“Take your ticket out and put it through the barrier.”

“It’s not working.”

“Put it through the barrier.”

“Right, fine.”

Put ticket through the barrier. OH LOOK. IT’S NOT WORKING.

Grunt. Swipe.

If it was working, why would I be queueing up? Surely I’d use the ticket in the barrier?

*deep breaths*

Why not give people with an annual or 6 monthly pass one of those plastic cards that the officials at the barrier have. Bit like an Oyster card. They seem to work quite well down in London, eh?

I’d even be happy to pay a little extra to get a card which I don’t have to replace every month.