Monday, June 6, 2011

How to Catch a Train in Blerg City

Begin at the surprisingly grimy main train station in Blerg City.

(1.a) Puzzle over which of the three multi-window ticket counters you should go to to purchase your train ticket. (1.b) Decide to try the handy automatic ticket-dispensing machines that lots of people are using. (If you've already done step 1b once before, then skip it and go straight to step 4).

(2) Search in vain for your destination on the machines' list. Discover that these machines are only for regional trains. The two other types of train departing from this station (not counting the subway and the trains to the suburbs, which are both entirely separate systems) are only available at the ticket counters.

(3) Repeat step 1.

(4) Go to the ticket window that you notice has your destination displayed for today's departures (although the other two ticket counters lack departure boards, so you're not sure). Bonus: This window has the shortest (though least organized) lines!

(5) After a bit of jostling and ruminating about whether the best response to line jumpers (in a culture whose subtle rules of behavior you don't always understand) is passive-aggression or just plain aggression, arrive at the front of the line, and learn that, yes, this is where you would buy your ticket to that city… if you were traveling today. Since you're purchasing a ticket for a later date (well-prepared person that you are), you need to go to the next counter over.

(6) Take a numbered ticket for your place in line at the next counter. Note that the number on your ticket is "632," and the current number being served is "550." (6b) Decide that life is too short to wait in line for so damn long, and accept your friend's offer to go back to her nearby apartment and purchase the ticket online and print it on her printer.

(7) Locate ticket-purchasing website; (7b) Fill out several screens of information; (7c) click "purchase ticket"; (7d) receive "unable to process transaction" message; (7e) Despair.

(8) Call train company and explain the problem. Once they have looked up and verified that your card has not been charged, attempt to purchase over the phone. Give same information you gave on website. Learn that their computer system won't take U.S.-issued credit cards.

(9) Return to train station. Take number ("745"… current number is "660"). Wait 45 minutes. Jump up when your number is called, feeling like a lottery winner. Purchase ticket.

(10) Board train the next day. Note that it's actually a rather nice train. Maybe not "steps one through nine" nice, but nice nonetheless. The train is uncrowded. You have a window seat, and a small lunch of mini-sandwich, fresh cherries, and water. Relax. Read your novel. Watch the countryside slip past until you arrive at your destination.

5 comments:

Dr. Koshary said...

My head is swimming from the Blarg/Blerg confusion. Really, you had to do this to me? *grumble*

Oh, and glad to see you're enjoying yourself and traveling in style! ;)

Susan said...

This can happen in the US too... try negotiating Penn Station some time. There are the Amtrak trains, the NJ transit ones, and the LIRR. And all have different waiting rooms and ticket counters, not remotely near one another....

feMOMhist said...

worst fight ever with first husband was in Malaysia in a train station. I won and first class compartment was FABU, like being in a 1940s movie.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Look on the bright side: When the going gets tough in the fucken archive, you can think back to this and it won't seem so bad.

Jonathan Jarrett said...

Oh my that sounds familiar. I always seem to come through analogous places in the evening so I get fatigue and slow wits to beat rather than crowds, which is probably better, but still, I can practically see the place.