November 30th, 2007


i travel

I kept meaning to post this during the week, but various things prevented me, and some nights I just plain forgot. Anyway.

Mindful of the problems I had with tickets last week, on Monday I made sure that I was at my station bright and early, with plenty of time to renew my travelcard. I got there and there was no queue at the ticket window. So I stomp up to the window and proffer up my expired travelcard, and the chap behind the window says, "Sorry, mate, I can't do any tickets. My printer's broken down."
I didn't even bother with a hard stare. There are two machines outside the station to buy generic tickets and `permissions to travel.' I went to them. They were both out of order.
Okay. I have plenty of time, so I walk to Arnos Grove, determined this time to queue as long as necessary to renew my weekly travelcard.
Nobody queuing at Arnos Grove. I stomp up to the window. "We don't do paper tickets here," says the girl behind the window.
I did the hard stare. I actually drummed my fingers on the windowledge. I even raised an eyebrow.
"But I can do you an Oystercard," she went on.
(I should digress for a moment and mention that the Oystercard is a plastic card with an RFID chip embedded in it. You load it up with credit and then touch it to card readers on the ticket gates, at which point a mainframe somewhere logs your journey and deducts the price of it. There are a number of Oystercard options, including pay-as-you-go, where you pay for each leg of your journey, and the period travelcard, which works exactly the same as the paper travelcard. The Mayor is very keen on Oyster, and for that reason I have conceived a deep and abiding distrust of them. If the Mayor is keen on them, I'm fairly sure that somewhere along the line I'm being fucked over.)
So, faced with a dwindling suite of options, one of which is buying another Tube ticket with which I won't be able to get out of my destination station, I say okay, fine, gimme an Oystercard.
And what I got was basically a plastic weekly travelcard. Which I have used without any trouble at all in my peregrinations to various large-scale music stores this week. I have been pleasantly surprised, and for that reason alone I remain suspicious of the Oystercard. I know there's something wrong with these things. I just can't work out what it is. There's something I'm missing, somewhere.
Anyway, the card is a couple of unattractive shades of blue, so obviously it's the Blue Oyster Card. Will I renew it next week? Yeah. But I'm keeping my eye on it.
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