I nonchalantly glanced down at my watch yesterday: 4:10 PM
4:10 PM!!! RATS!!!!!
I shoved my computer in my backpack, grabbed my Currier bag and bolted for the door. I had about 20 minutes to get from my office to the public train station about a mile away. The “bolting” part lasted about 150 yards before I started sucking for air. Not used to sprinting in dress shoes, khaki pants and about 20 extra pounds (9 kilos for those keeping track in metric) hanging around my head. I had to walk a few steps just to catch my breath, but like rain suddenly dropping from the UK sky, lyrics dropped into my head. Haunted by the consequences realized by Kris Kross, I hammered the pavement spurred on by a hip-hop beat pounding my brain while audibly bustin’ some rhymes, offering a very white-bread, middle-aged version of “I missed the bus.”
Obviously my rhythmic agility and ability to turn rap into rev landed me on the platform for the 4:32 train just as it was pulling into the station.
A friend of mine thinks I’m crazy to enjoy the challenges of public transportation. Frankly, I’ve been waiting years for the opportunity. Unfortunately as long as the Hummer and Escalade crowd dominate the votes in Franklin and Brentwood, Tenn., there’s no chance a commuter rail will be established between where I lived and where I worked in downtown Nashville.
But now, I have what I whined for. I walk 30 yards to the bus stop, ride six minutes to the rail station, wait 15 minutes for the 8:14 AM train, ride 15 minutes, then walk 15 minutes to the office. The situation is reversed in the afternoon, except on those days the walk turns into a sprint – which fortunately isn’t very often.
Not sure exactly what my attraction is to riding public. Maybe it is the fact that I’ve been able to (sorta) figure out the routes (although I did nearly board a train north toward London instead of West toward my house); or maybe it is being among the other working stiffs, the ground being somewhat economically leveled because we all share a concrete platform and seats are first come first served (unless you have an unfair advantage by being elderly or pregnant, then somebody gives up their seat); or maybe it is that it all makes me feel like a grown up (although I did have some help one day reading a timetable from a nine year old daily rider commuting to school).
There are just a few things a North American has to remember when mounting public here in the UK:
- Bus fares are small change. Don’t hand the guy a 20 pound bill ($32.2 US).
- Count your change quickly or quickly sit down and count it. Otherwise you’ll be looking for it on the floorboard after it flies out of your hand when he mashes the accelerator.
- Make sure you are on the right (or wrong?) side of the road or platform. The bus or train you are about to board may be heading in the opposite direction you wish to go.
- Pay attention to which entry gates have green lights or else they don’t budge an inch even when you hit them going full speed while swiping your ticket (this one is a sure giveaway that you ain’t from these parts).
Of course the most basic thing to remember when riding public is to give yourself enough time to get to the pickup point without having to break your neck.
Oops, look at the time. Gotta rap and run.