Things don’t always go to plan

Yesterday I found myself having to go somewhere that I had never been before.  I always get a bit nervous about doing this, especially if I’m on my own, for obvious reasons. I decided to take the train because, although I getting used to taking the bus without help, I still find the choo choo much easier to handle. I booked my assistance in advance (as advised) so I was optimistic that things would run smoothly from a public transport point of view at least.

Despite being nervous, with the help of station staff and taxi drivers, I got to my appointment on time with very little stress and without getting too cold or wet, which is always nice. I think the meeting went well too, so I was feeling fairly pleased and wondered why I’d been awake half the night worrying.

After my appointment, I knew I had a bit of time before my train back home again so I thought  I’d brave walking back to the station rather than getting another taxi. I wanted to get some exercise anyway.

That was around the time it started to rain. Not too much, but enough to make the idea that I might get lost on the way seem even less appealing than it would do normally, so I decided I’d make things easier for myself and just take a cab.

It arrived. My walking frame Martha fit into the boot, albeit with a bit of persuasion.

“Where to, Love” the cabbie asked.

“The train station, please” I replied, thinking it would all be plain sailing from here. Little did I know that the area I was in for my meetings had two nearby train stations so I didn’t bother to specify which one I meant, because I thought there was only one and it would be obvious where I wanted to go.

I just so happened to be closest to the one that I didn’t want to be at, but because I didn’t tell the driver I wanted to be at ‘Station X’, because I thought that he’d know where I wanted to be because the place where my appointment was at also had the place “X” as part of its name. However, station “Y”, where he took me, must have been closer to where I was, because that was where I found myself getting dropped off. Only silly me didn’t realise straight away, not being from the area and all.

Yes, I ended up in the wrong place. Away from where I had already booked my assistance, only because I didn’t know either of the stations I didn’t realise until he had already driven away.

At this point I really couldn’t be more grateful to all the staff who helped me that afternoon. Not  only was I somewhere else I’d never been before, but the station was also being operated by staff from a different rail company to the one I had booked my travel assistance with.

Once upon a time, this would have thrown me into complete meltdown, but I stayed calm and wondered over to the assistance desk where I relayed the story to the nice person behind booking office, even though I was still a little confused as to how the driver and I had managed to get so mixed up.

He was amazingly helpful and rang the other train company, explained the story and offered to put me on the next train that would get me to where I needed to be. They agreed to cancel the help I had arranged for the other place, and informed the staff at the station I was going to that I’d be coming in on another line, at an earlier time than expected.

That sorted, I was helped onto the train, and the people working at the station I was going to still managed to fit me into their schedule to help me get my connecting train home again. Now that I got through it all safely I find it quite funny.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and it was quite a confidence boost for me that I didn’t panic. I’m actually quite tempted to write to both companies involved to praise them for their customer service and thank the staff involved for going the extra mile, but I don’t know any names so it probably wouldn’t make any sense to whoever ended up reading it.

But thank you to all who helped me out yesterday to make sure I got home again in time for dinner. I couldn’t have done it without you.





Birthday Surprises

Dad and I

At the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, I like trains. In fact I like them an awful lot, but probably not for the same reasons he does. Unlike Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons) I can’t name them model, and if there is a way to get somewhere that is much faster I’ll choose that option rather than make my friends add hours to their journey just so I can ride on a choo-choo, but they are one of my more favoured modes of public transport.

For a long time I was just as afraid of them as I am of the bus. I’d heard all sorts of horror stories from people about them being left on board and ending up in all sorts of places they’d never intended to be, but given that I knew you could book ramp assistance and seats to help with disabled access I knew it was one thing that I would have to conquer in the end. I started out small at first when I found myself an internship at a company that was based a half-an-hour ride away from my home. Mum came with me the first day to make sure that everything went smoothly – and it did- so for the rest of the time I was on my own. Although this short journey was a massive victory for me, the real turning point came for me a few months later when I decided to travel back home from university by myself to surprise my dad for his birthday.

This was an even bigger challenge than the one I had faced getting to my placement and back. I had chosen to go to a university that was about 70 miles away from where I lived and would take me two trains – yes two – to get there. I’d had the idea for weeks, as soon as I realised that I had the afternoon of his special day – a Tuesday- off and I didn’t have another lecture until Thursday afternoon, but it took me about a week to pluck up the courage to book the tickets. I paid for them instantly and made arrangements for assisted travel before I could change my mind.  I hardly slept the night before with nerves. I’d never got more than one train per trip before and all I could think about was all the things that could go wrong. Every time I had a thought like that I tried to push it away and think only of how it would all be worth it to see the look on Dad’s face. This wasn’t about me, it was about him.

Thankfully on the day things all went according to plan. Members of station staff even walked me from one platform to another which was more than I had been expecting (in a good way) and when I saw my mum and her new partner waiting for me as I got off the last train so that she could take me to my Dad’s flat I thought that I might fall to my knees in relief.

When the three of us wondered into his kitchen together he just looked between us all and saw that my Mum and her partner were both in their work uniforms. For a second he looked confused and then he realised what I had done to get there,  smiled and looked as if he were about to cry.

I learned an important life lesson that day, two actually. I learned that I could manage the train by myself (with a little help, but there’s no shame in that) and I learned that it is important to push ourselves sometimes, if not for ourselves but for the sake of those around us.

That was almost two years ago now. It is my Dad’s birthday again on Friday and I really have no idea what to get him this year. I’m not sure if I can ever top my surprise, but I’m always willing to try.