Leaving Seaford behind in the beginning stages of a snowstorm was not difficult. The North County was promising to be a bit warmer. (As it turned out, Seaford and Brighton roads became snowed over, then closed. Transportation in and out came to a standstill just hours after I left.). Ben, bless his heart, accompanied me to London, transferring us to the next station via the Tube, and bid farewell as I headed to Stoke-on-Trent. There I was to meet up with my other cousin, John, the nephew of my late grandfather, and his wife, Denise, both of whom flew out to Colorado last October and attended my mom’s memorial.
The train ticket was first class as it turned out to be less expensive that day, and at that time, than second class. It was quite comfortable and now I know they serve free sandwiches and beverages since I had bought a sandwich at the previous train station, which I ate.
I asked the server how far ahead my stop at Stoke-on-Trent would be, and he said in just a couple of minutes. There wouldn’t have been time for having a drink or a sandwich anyway as I then heard my station announced. I put on my inner sweater, outer jacket, pashmina scarf, beret, picked up my bag and meandered down the aisle to my suitcase. We had stopped at the station and I rolled my suitcase to the door and found the ticket collector standing in my way. I said “Excuse me, I need to get off.” He turned and quite calmly said, “The train’s start up operations have been set, ma’m, so I cannot open the doors.” I could feel my face flushing and said, “But the train isn’t moving. Can’t you just ask to open the doors? I have family waiting.” I was quite calm, too, except for my flushed cheeks and racing heart. I asked him if he could let me use his phone so I could call my cousin as I didn’t have a phone (except the Euro phone in my suitcase I never got around to getting a SIM card for, meaning I couldn’t actually use it). He was very helpful saying he would call him for me so I went to the empty car closest to us to sit down and find John’s number on my iPad contacts list. Didn’t have his number after all as I must have put it in my U.S. cell phone (but that begs to ask why it didn’t transfer to my iPad as it’s supposed to update automatically).
Instead, he got in touch with the station and asked them to make an announcement to John to talk with the counter clerk so the situation could be explained. That gave me a sense of relief. Then the server came by and asked if I had changed my mind deciding not to get off at Stoke after all. Ummmm….not really…. I told him what happened and he laughed saying “It happens, believe me, you’re not the only one!” I told him I still felt like an idiot.
The next stop was Stockport about 25 minutes away. The plan was for me to hop off, get over to the other side of the tracks on another platform (down stairs, through a short tunnel, and up more stairs. But the funny part was that the dear ticket man alerted EVERYONE to be on the watch for me so they were pointing and whispering and watching that I was going the right way and then physically helping me onto the train as we laughed together at my failure to get off the other train on time. Another American traveler hits the British rails.
When I got off at Stoke-on-Trent, I was sure John would be there and we’d have a good laugh. But there was no one there I recognized. After about 5 minutes Denise showed up and we went to where John had temporarily parked to wait for me for the second time. (They had gone off to get some tea after the train station announcement that I’d be on the next train.)
The moral of this story is: when you hear your stop announced, grab your stuff, and get to the exit door pronto!! Meandering is not allowed in this scenario…