Ok now look. I don’t know what those three words conjure up in your brain but let me tell you, in the UK they contain multitudes.
We barely have (passenger) trains in Ohio. I suppose Amtrak rolls through now and again. But obviously no rail system. And we do have buses, but they don’t come out as far as we live and anyway I have a car so who needs a bus.
In the UK, my friends, public transportation is a thing. And if you’re new to it all, deep concentration and focus are required, along with a real go-with-the-flow attitude. Not because the trains are late — they rarely are; but because figuring out which train to take is a lesson in persistence. It helps if you know some serious geography as well.
When you don’t know the location of every last city and town , then the fun begins. Let’s say the towns are called Morgle, Skiffer, Pork, Chop, On, A, Sunny, and Day. The train will advertise it’s going to Day. But you need the train going to Pork so you have to watch the many screens to figure out which train is going to stop at Pork. (NB: not actual city names. These are lyrics to a Hank the Cowdog song.)
Really, the amount of detail to describe would probably be tedious to read. So I’ll just give some highlights.
First of all, every single train and bus I took was a first for me, so I made myself attentive and humble as I for sure wanted to get on the right train or bus.
Some embarkment points required a walk from point A to point B, none of which were very easy to find, of course. Apple Maps is da bomb but I always found getting started in the right direction to challenge my spatial intelligence. Last night I walked .4 miles in the wrong direction and was rescued by a panhandler.
“Can you ‘elp me, miss?” Very focused on getting to the venue for concert 5, I replied, “No, I’m actually trying to help myself!” He asked where I was trying to go and told me to turn around and go the opposite direction. The walk to the venue was already a mile so I alertly added on another .8 miles!
I walked/jogged by a number of stores and my stomach was saying “girl, get me some food. I’m not trying to go hungry until tomorrow.” Finally, after her third entreaty, I stopped in a store and hoped I didn’t accidentally buy myself dog food since everything has a different name here.
I did make it to the venue in time to be about 7th in line. Met another American in line. The “small world” connections really amazed me here. I met so many good and kind people, like I said before, and that kept up throughout the entire trip.
One other transportation tidbit: last night was the only night my hotel was not close to the venue. Getting there required just a shuttle from hotel, a one hour train tide, and that aforementioned one mile walk that I made into a 1.8 mile walk/run.
Getting back to hotel however was much more complicated. First step, walk to different train station, jump on train to Moorgate, then with only five minutes, board a different train. I made myself somewhat stressed about this short transfer time because I’m not a complete novice, but it takes time to figure out where things are.
I made myself very relieved to arrive at the first train station and find I was able to catch an earlier train to Moorgate. Yay, I was going to have more than five minutes but all the people who got off at Moorgate and were catching my train were hoofing it and we all helped each other figure it out.
I did arrive to catch the second train in time. From that one I needed to disembark and then catch the “N140” bus.
When you exit the train station, you have to find the bus stop. Surprise! There’s a stop on both sides of the street! Would have helped to know which way was east and which was west but of course I didn’t.
Stumbled to the one on this side of the street and thought I detected info about the N140. 24 minutes to its arrival. Alright, cool, it’s cold but if I manage to catch this bus I’m almost back to hotel. With about 7 minutes left to wait my bus info disappears from the sign.
I’m momentarily flummoxed. A very tall, well-dressed handsome man is talking on his phone and he is apparently in the same boat. I approached a working man who indicated he doesn’t hear well and asked what do.
While THM and I were discussing this dilemma, after about five minutes the info for N140 mysteriously reappears. We all laugh and breathe sighs of relief and the British working man is actually very kind and helpful and celebrated with us that we weren’t actually stranded at the Hayes and Harlington bus stop.
Bus arrives and I want to kiss the bus driver but this is frowned on. Nor would I actually do it but man it was a relief.
From Nene Rd, I had a short walk to my hotel. I blessed my hotel’s little heart for its excellent signage.
So pretty much, adventure after adventure. But I did it! With help from others and some good old fashioned problem solving but I am at the airport waiting for my flight so I think I managed the public transportation system here just fine!