Friday, September 9, 2011

Public Transport

Neither Kenz nor I had really been versed in public transportation before moving to London. We both knew it was going to become an integral, taken for granted, complained about part of our lives within however long an amount of time of us being here - but we still hadn't actually ridden a bus or train as of Friday, August 12th. We purchased our Oyster cards, went to the first bus stop we saw, and picked a part of town we wanted to go to. We had no idea what part of town it was, exactly - just that it sounded cool (Piccadilly Circus). We waited at the bus stop for the number 12 . There's a digital sign inside each bus stop that lists 4 busses in order, complete with how many minutes it will take for them to arrive. 

We see that the number 12 is about 9 minutes away, double and triple check the route map to be sure that we're at the right stop, have the right bus, and will be going to the right place. I've gotten worried that my debit and credit cards have erased my Oyster card because I erased the the hotel key card on our way out to the bus. It's all I can think about, in fact. I'm obsessing on the various ways this can play out, yet the one that keeps coming to my mind is:

I get on the bus, "touch in" (which is what you do with the card - there's a little reader at the entrance of the busses and tube stations), and the light will go red. I'll panic, tell the driver I just bought the card, but that my credit cards must have demagnetized it much the same way my hotel key card got erased. The bus driver won't be having any of it, and the rest of the people on the bus will start moaning and yelling at me to get the hell off the bus, move back to America, and die - they've got places to be. 

It seems reasonable to expect such a scenario to play out as above. It's a combination of feeling like I look like a tourist, being hyper aware that I have no real idea what I'm doing, and constantly expecting the other shoe to drop. The trip has been an obstacle course so far - why would I expect our first bus ride to be smooth? 

And the waiting is the hardest part! I just sit there, with Kenz, obsessing on how I'm going to recover from having a recently purchased but invalid Oyster card. And I paid for a week's travel! That's 27 pounds, gone! The humiliation of being proven a fool would be even more expensive. 

Then the nine minutes ran out. We looked at the sign, only now it said 12 minutes. So, we waited.

Then, after 12 minutes, the bus didn't come. Again. 

I began to think I was going crazy. We checked the various maps, the digital reader, everything. Everything was right. The bus should be coming by. So we waited another 10 minutes for the bus. All this waiting and quadruple checking is doing wonders for my worry that I've erased my card. I mean, if we can't even find the right bus stop, there's no telling how bad I've screwed up the Oyster card situation...

45 minutes later, exacerbated, I call Owen. I hadn't wanted to call him because he'd already done enough for us and I wanted us to learn our way around the city on our own. He asked me the types of questions you get when you call about the problem your computer is having, which is funny because he works in IT these days. He asked the equivalent of "did you plug it in" type questions. After it was established that Kenz and I weren't complete fools, he admitted that he had no idea what the problem was. We wound up catching a different bus. 

Later that night, on our way back on the number 12, we learned that the bus had been put on "diversion" earlier that day. Four weeks in, and we still don't understand what that means.