I had a remarkable experience at Woking railway station the other day. It shouldn’t have been remarkable at all; it shouldn’t even be the topic of this probably-not-going-anywhere post to be honest, but we’re here now.
My train had arrived at the station early (I know, and that’s not the remarkable bit) and having mis-directed myself towards the exit by walking up some stairs and then immediately down some parallel ones, the automatic gates failed to let me through.
They do that at most stations, actually. Despite having a perfectly valid permit to travel and break my journey at about 50 stations, no one has in the past 60 or so years managed to programme the barriers to respond to my valid ticket appropriately.
But despite the botheration caused both by the mis-directing directional signage and the automatic gates that required manual intervention, I was not much perturbed.
I quite enjoy work days where I get to head out of the office (whether it’s at home or in London) and see some of the frontline teams at work and it was quite a nice day too.
When you work in a support function like ‘comms’ it can be far too easy to become disconnected with what the business you work in actually does, and seeing some of the business end of the frontline is not only a nice reminder but also a nice change.
So in theory, and in retrospect, the conditions for the joke the chap behind the window in the ticket office was about to make should’ve gone down well.
Because earlier in the week my train ticket wallet had broken. It was no longer very effective at holding my ticket and although I’d soldiered on for a few days I jumped at the chance to get a new one – given the empty ticket office, two windows open, that Woking had gifted me.
“That’ll be ten pounds please” the stony faced guy behind the ticket window said when I asked. My reply something along the lines of “seriously?”
He nodded. I walked off. He shouted me back and, in the process of finding himself hilarious, handed me a new wallet.
“It’s surprising how easy it was to believe you though,” my instant reaction to him. And a couple of days later, it still is.
I’ve been through about three of the wallets over the 11 months I’ve had my current season ticket. It’s with me everywhere and goes in and out of its wallet 6 times a day, so it’s not surprising that they don’t last all that long.
I’ve even had to have the ticket itself replaced 5 times. Four because the magnetic strip stopped operating the barriers and once because the thermal print couldn’t cope with its regular thumbing and the ticket had become illegible.
But with every replacement has come some kind of tut, some kind of resentment at what I’ve been asking for: a working, £5,000-a-year travel ticket.
I no longer expect to arrive on time more often than I don’t, I no longer expect to have a comfortable seat (or a seat at all) and I no longer expect much info when things do go up the spout.
I’ve accepted that South West Trains can steal 19hrs and 40 mins a week of my life from me should they wish without sometimes even saying anything about it.
So it wasn’t at all surprising to expect that I might be expected to pay £10 for a cheap ticket wallet last week at Woking.
Perhaps it does say something about my mood, perhaps I need to get a sense of humour (and I’ve no problem with the guy making a joke, to be clear). But perhaps it says something about what I’ve come to expect, through experience, from the trains?