One of the reason I don’t travel by trains is that I frighten them. A train knows when I want to travel on it and cowers at the other end of the line shaking pathetically and has to be prodded and goaded to continue its journey towards the station where I’m waiting for it to arrive.
Yesterday however the effect was so strong that the train wasn’t just late – it had an existential crisis and turned into a different train entirely. Twice.
I was early at Ankh Morpork station, and waited patiently for the 18:05 for Genua to arrive at Platform 11D. I was happy enough waiting at Platform 11D because the departures board said that the 18:05 would depart from 11D at 18:28 going to Genua. I’d rather be on the train than the platform but hey.
At 18:22 a train arrived at Platform 11D but it clearly wasn’t the great big Genua train that I wanted, so I checked the board. This was a local train for Sto Helit and I was right to be suspicious. Meanwhile, according to the board the 18:05 for Genua was still due in at 18:28, and still due to arrive at 11D. So I cleverly didn’t get on the Sto Helit train. Good for me.
At 18:28 a much bigger train pulled into platform 11D.
Platform 11D? Check.
I got on the train. As it pulled out of Ankh Morpork Station the announcer said “Welcome aboard the 18:28 for Lancre”.
I said it out loud, actually.
“Don’t worry”, my fellow denizens said. “You can change at Quirm and catch the Genua train there. It’ll be just behind us”. And they were right, I could. I got off at Quirm and looked at the board which said the Genua train would arrive at Platform 5 Right Now. No surprise really, it had followed me all the way from Ankh Morpork, dancing sarcastically all the way.
And Lo! A train at Platform 5! It must be the train for Genua.
Except it’s going the wrong way.
“Excuse me” I asked a convenient station master – “where is the train at Platform 5 going to?”
“Ankh Morpork” he replied.
“How can that be?” I trilled. “See the board. See how it says the Genua train will be at Platform 5. See that it says it will be there at 19:15. See the clock. See it is 19:15. So why is the train at Platform 5 going to Ankh Mor- bloody -pork?”
Of such things are defence cases and case law made.
If you ask me, the fuel price hikes have been engineered by the Discworld Railway Company to get people to use their bloody trains, because no sane person would otherwise. And if you start out sane, you will be mad by the time you get to the end of the line.
Dagenham. Two stops past Barking. For a reason.