November 19th, 2007

The Cat of Death

another one of those days

Commuting in London can often be a surreal experience, but just occasionally, if the stars are right and the Moon's in the right phase, it drops straight down into the Kafkaesque. Let me tell you about my morning. I apologise to those villagers who are unfamiliar with the London Underground and who will find this post blindingly boring.

I was late out of the house and I missed my overground train, so I had to walk to Arnos Grove station to catch a Piccadilly Line train instead. It's only a ten-minute walk and it's no great stretch; I often miss my train and have to walk to Arnos Grove.
Anyway, my weekly travelcard had expired and I needed a new one, but this being Monday there was a queue a hundred feet long at the ticket window so I decided to get a single and renew my travelcard when I arrived at City Thameslink, my destination station on Ludgate Hill.
So I do that, and I do my usual route: Piccadilly Line to Finsbury Park, Victoria Line to King's Cross, Thameslink overground train to City Thameslink - which is just a few hundred yards from our office.
Many delays on various bits of travel this morning. I didn't reach City Thameslink until ten o'clock, slightly mussed and rather annoyed. I went up the escalator, put my ticket in the gate, and the gate spat it out again, but the gate didn't open.
I did it again, and the gate spat the ticket out again, but it still wouldn't open.
So I approached one of the station staff, thinking - and this happens now and again - that there was something faulty with my ticket. But no.
"You can't use that ticket here," he said.
I don't think I said anything, but I do remember essaying a hard stare.
"That's a Tube ticket," he said. "This is a rail station. You can't use that ticket here."
Another hard stare.
"That's a Tube ticket..." but by then I was heading back down the escalator.
Now, I could have caught a train to the next station, which is Blackfriars, but to get out of Blackfriars main line station and reach the safety of the Underground I would have had to run the gauntlet of yet another ticket barrier.
So instead I wound up waiting for fifteen minutes for a train back one station to Farringdon, where I was finally able to escape and walk to work.
Now, the irony (and I admit I'm the only person in the world who appreciates this) is that, although main line trains pass through Farringdon, it's not classed as a `terminus station' and rail tickets aren't eligible there. Something I discovered two years ago when I had a rail ticket and wasn't allowed out of the station, even though I had an appointment for an interview at an hotel virtually next door to the station.

I've been commuting for...oh, christ, it feels like I've been commuting most of my life now, to no great effect, and, the previous incident notwithstanding, it never occurred to me that you can actually wind up trapped on the London transport system.

Anyway, I finally made it into work at half past ten, roughly two hours after I left home, to find that our company intranet and internet system had crashed and nobody could do any work. In addition, on trying to boot my PC the damn thing simply turned up its toes and died. All I get is an error message. I strongly suspect it's beyond help. Not that our IT department (which is in Dundee) appear too bothered.

And it rained. A lot.
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