Thursday, June 07, 2007

An Unhapy Commuter on a Monday night

Ironically, or perhaps portentously, I had a miraculously hassle-free journey into work on Monday morning. I got a slightly earlier train than normal, forgoing the chance of a seat for a faster service, the bus turned up within a minute of my arrival at Kings Cross, and then seemed blessed with the goodwill of every set of traffic lights between Euston Road and Oxford Street. I was first in the office, managed to make myself a cup of tea before anyone else arrived (which I believe is what is known as a “cheap round”) and had been through my emails and filled in my timesheet by the time the rest of my colleagues turned up.

It was quite a busy day, as it turned out – I worked through lunch, dealing with a few bit and pieces that had been foisted upon me at the last minute. I had a late night lined up on Tuesday, so I was determined to get away on time and spend a quality portion of the evening with The Wife. Come five to six then (I was taking no chances), I arose from my desk, bade my colleagues good evening, and headed out on to the streets to catch a bus. The first sign that something strange might be going on came when I emerged on to Tottenham Court Road and found that there was no bus pulling away from my stop just before I got there. As I have said before, I believe it to be a general rule of any dash across London by bus that there is always a bus that pulls away just as you arrive at the bus stop. Naively, I took this as a good sign, not a bad one, reasoning that the bus I would normally expect to be puling away in front of me must just not have arrived yet, therefore when it did turn up, I would be able to get on it. Peering down the street, I was indeed gratified to see several buses heading towards me, but as each got closer it turned out that none of them bore any of the numbers that go to Kings Cross. There were a couple of sevens (it really bugs me when that happens – what kind of system have you got when two identical buses turn up at the same time?), a twenty-five and a thirty.

Eventually a seventy-three turned up, and I got on, squeezing my way down to the end to stand between two seats. We headed through the traffic lights and off down Tottenham Court Road, making remarkably slow progress. After what seemed like several hours, we got to the first stop and a number of people got on, whereupon I overheard one of them saying that Oxford Circus was closed, which accounted for all the extra people top side, and I privately awarded myself a gold star for avoiding the tube. Then the bus doors slid shut, the lights ahead of us turned green.

The bus stayed exactly where it was.

I glanced ahead out of the window and could see a solid row of traffic stretching up toward Warren Street. Now it’s always busy on that stretch of road – the traffic lights halfway down have a creative approach to timekeeping – but for some reason this did seem worse than usual. We sat there for a couple of minutes while I performed the usual calculations over whether I would be better getting off the bus and dashing to Warren Street to pick up the Victoria Line (the challenge is to beat the Kings Cross train to Finsbury Park, and is entirely dependent on the alignment of several factors – there needs to be a train on the Victoria Line platform as soon as you get there, you need to pick the right set of doors to deposit you right next to the stairs to the mainline platform at Finsbury, and of course it needs to be a smooth journey on the tube with no delays in tunnels – it’s a high stakes game of chance). I concluded that, ironically, the four or five minutes I had wasted waiting for this bus might have been sufficient to get me to Finsbury Park, but that now I was too far away to get to Warren Street in time, and anyway it would be jammed with people who had ventured up the road from Oxford Circus.

In the time it’s taken you to read that last paragraph, the bus moved not an inch. Finally, we crept forward a few inches, whereupon the lights went red again and we ground to a halt once more. Pretty much the same pattern repeated itself at the next set of lights, outside Goodge Street station, and I had just about resigned myself to getting the later train, when all of a sudden the road ahead cleared and the bus put on a sudden burst of speed. We sailed part the gang of leather-loving furniture shops and it started to look genuinely promising. Oh what cruel tricks the transport network plays.

I did at least have the satisfaction of seeing that I had called it right about Warren Street – it was jam-packed with commuters who looked short of patience. When we hit Euston Road we stopped for an unaccountably long time while someone dithered about whether to get on or not at the stop by the Wellcome building, and then we got into a jam at the lights coming out of Euston Station. I had developed a theory that getting off one stop earlier might provide me with a better route into the Sticks (the outlying platforms at Kings Cross) but the driver decided not to stop there, and I probably wouldn’t have made it in time to get the train anyway. When I did get on a train, having relied solely on my powers of deduction to figure out the cause of all these delays, it picked up a further seven minute delay en route to Stevenage, again with not a word of explanation. I arrived home a little grumpy, rather hungry and saw The Wife for a few minutes in between Corrie and Eastenders, whereupon I went and washed up. At the end of the second Corrie episode she announced she was going to bed, so I sat up on my own for an hour reading other blogs, which is normally a thrill, but was bit of a let-down after I had planned to some quality time with the woman I love.

That’s what makes an unhappy commuter.


At 12:16 PM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Good to get a warning no doubt. 7 is my lucky number, I know that for sure because I've nrver had any luck with it. Luck brings sometimes strange burdens.
Yes, I have to admit more times than not the blog wins over all. It just seems more real to me talking to myself-Ha!
You know what I mean. Nice read JD.
I'm on the journey with you everytime; you're in a hurry and I'm usually sitting back. Just for me...maybe you might tell me more about the shops and buildings you pass. I love looking out the window when I'm travelling by bus. Thanks!!
Y;-) Paddy

At 1:39 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

You're right about one thing - tube traveller in London do miss out on seeing the city topside. There's some beautiful buildings and such variety.

Tell you what Paddy, I promise you that next time I get the bus across in the morning I'll write it up in detail - it's a much more interesting route.

At 6:42 PM GMT+1 , Blogger savannah said...

i wish our public transport was more interesting and as god as yours! my favorite tube stop is in's as if you're descending into a castle, but it's just a very efficent station..but then, i'm just a tourist when i'm there with time on her hands...great reads here! thanks :)

At 6:25 PM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Thanks jd look forwafd to it.
Y;-) Paddy
PS: how's life. I do hope you're well.

At 2:30 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

You will be intrigued to know that I rejoined the ranks of unhappy commuter a couple of weeks ago - we were going for a drink after work, so I got a lift in, and thought I would take public transport to get home. The journey is 7 1/2 miles and takes about twenty minutes by car. It took two hours to get home, which given the fact that I was tired, hungry, had a bag of groceries that was about to split, and an alcohol-induced weakening bladder, left one very unhappy commuter...

At 1:48 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Hey, at least you could console yoursefl with the thought that your carbon footprint was lowered.

At 6:11 AM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

Reading this made me feel a bit twtichy! I hate big cities and rush hour and everything else that goes with communting. I have to travel to London occasionaly for work and stepping off the train at Waterloo and into the tide of humans is such a shock!


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