Since passing my driving test, I've had neither the need or inclination to travel by train nearly as much as I used to. However, I recently graced the South West Trains network once again and was reminded of just why I used to love trains so much. Ahem.
Headed home, I found myself at Guildford awaiting a connecting service to Havant. Guildford is on the London-Portsmouth line, along which run both fast and not-so-fast services. Keen to avoid the latter, I approached a flourescent-clad station attendant to ask for advice. Would it be worth my while, I asked, waiting the extra few minutes and boarding the fast service or would the slow train still get me there sooner?
"Next train in seven minutes," came the mindless reply.
I explained that, yes, I had read the overhead electronic display and was aware of the fact, but that I simply wanted to check times of arrival before making my decision.
"This next one gets you there at 21 minutes past," said Mr Helpful.
I decided not to impress upon him the importance of knowing both times of arrival as my frustration was growing, and instead boarded the stopping service, hoping for the best but expecting less. As we approached Haslemere, a tannoy announcement proclaimed, "all those requiring the fast train to Petersfield, Havant and Portsmouth, should change here." Brilliant.
I alighted. Moments later, the fast train pulled into the adjacent platform and I waited to board. The doors opened and off stepped a couple of commuters, before the third slowed almost to a halt in the doorway, speaking intently into his mobile phone and gazing around the confines of the station as if stargazing on a midsummer's night. If you're getting off the train, get off. It really is simple - one foot follows the other and you get out of the way. Have your phone conversation anywhere but in front of me as I wait, increasingly impatiently, to step through the narrow gap which you currently occupy. By the time he had finally planted all ten digits on the platform a large drip of water had collected in the station guttering and dripped neatly down the back of my neck. Yes, I love trains.