When the cold front hit Scotland everything seemed fine to me; despite widespread train delays and motorway horror stories (jackknifed lorries… jackknifed lorries everywhere), my train and my company bus seemed to be quite undisturbed.
Alas, as the week progressed, things didn’t… run… so smoothly.
My commute is a three-stage venture. First, I catch the 0735 from Jordanhill. Unfortunately, this would take me to Central — the bus pick-up is at Queen Street. But no bother, I hop off at Partick and wait for the next Queen Street train, which is nary five minutes on the 0735’s tail. I get to Queen Street at about 0750, leaving plenty of time for delays to occur without causing me to miss the eight o’clock bus pickup.
Of course, that’s during normal weather when the trains run on time. When it, say, snows all weekend and most of the week, the trains start to behave in… sub-optimal ways.
Initially, I thought I was going to get away with it. On Monday, the 0735 came in on time and so did its follow-up. I was all “snow? ‘snow problem”.
Time For Plan C
There are a lot of fall-back options in my route, thanks to living in the leafy suburbs. There is a fork in the line just past Jordanhill station, and Hyndland is ten minutes’ walk away — it gets double the trains. So when the J-hill train fails to show its face, one can dash to Hyndland and try to head off a train from the other line. Of course this eats up the ten minute delay, but it’s better than sitting on your arse moaning. Pro-active, right?
And if the follow-up train fails to show its face at Partick, there’s an Underground station. I had to grab that one time, and it sat in the station opening and closing its doors for five minutes before pulling off. There are also more stops in the way on the Underground, so despite its weather resistence it’s a dangerous one for timing.
Or in the same situation, I can sit on the Central train and walk to Queen Street; it’s again about ten minutes across the city centre.
Any one of these eventualities can be dealt with. But all of them? That’s pushing it.
The Need for Speed
Alas, Friday was one of those days.
Imagine standing at the platform. It’s cold but crisp, there are birds twittering overhead. The screens show the train is running perfectly on time — it feels like everything is going to be all right. The snow’s eased up, at least in the city and the suburbs, so things should be getting back to normal.
It’s not so bad when they tell you it’s going to be late well in advance; the more time you have, the easier it is to activate your countermeasures. When everything appears perfect until one minute before the train is scheduled to arrive, and it suddenly becomes ten minutes late (or worse — cancelled), you get a little bit… irked.
So I activate countermeasure one: power-walk to Hyndland. Through the snow. Do you know what it’s like to power-walk through snow? Your calves turn to fire, then when you finally stop moving they convert to jelly. Good for bums and thighs, mind you. If this winter brings nothing else, it will bring me toned buttocks.
Of course, the “power” part of power-walking was unnecessary, because nothing came through Hyndland for another ten minutes anyway. This pushed the time to about 0753 — the train journey into town is roughly ten minutes on either line, so that’s really pushing it. Though the bus is a company bus and can be held back for stragglers, there are limits to its forbearance. And to add insult to injury, the train that finally arrived was a… Central train. The word on the street was that nothing was even getting near Queen Street anyway.
If there is any quality I have in abundance it is perseverence. Despite the odds stacked against me, I took this train… and devised a strategy.
I knew that the bus would be pulling away pretty much as soon as I hit the city centre, so trying to catch it at the pick-up point would be futile. But I know the route and it never varies (well, except when gritter lorries spuriously reverse off the expressway). Can you see where this is going?
The point on the above map marked “oh shit” is where the bus drove past me, conveniently as I hit the crossing. Unfortunately the lights were green, so I couldn’t flag it down there and then. Luckily for me Bath Street is absolutely festooned with traffic lights — I knew there was still a chance.
The triple-arrow indicates just how whole-heartedly I took that chance.
I feel that I should finish by telling you that I had my laptop, so in the worst case scenario I could have worked from home.