I go to London on the train a lot. What I always used to do was pay for my ticket on line and pick it up when I get to the station. I say 'used to' as I did this up until yesterday but will never do so again.
When you book tickets on line, you have to book a journey some two hours hence as it takes time (god knows why but it does) for the instructions to issue the ticket to arrive at the relevant station. I had never had a problem with this - until yesterday.
I was taking my mum, daughter and niece to London as a birthday treat for my mum. I therefore booked 4 train tickets in my usual on-line manner.
We arrive at Northampton station in high spirits. We didn't know that we would not be departing from there in such good moods. We had 15 minutes before our train was due to depart - plenty of time. I went to collect my tickets.
Right - imagine the most miserable, unpleasant, vilest woman you have ever met and then in your mind try and imagine that person being twice as awful as she already is, and then you may come close to envisaging the person I encountered at the ticket office. I gave this Evil Bitch From Hell (EBFH) my reference number and she entered it on the computer. She then looked at me with ill disguised delight to inform me there was no such booking. "Of course there is such a booking," I said - "You've got all the details there in your hand. "There is no such booking", repeats EBFH. "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again." "I beg your pardon?" "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again."
At this point I get just a little irate, on account of I have already paid for tickets in good faith, and now this EBFH is telling me I will have to buy the tickets again. I suggest she has to be joking (this was a stupid mistake on my part as EBFH obviously wouldn't know a joke if it hit her in her ugly and smug face), and that there must be a way for her to issue me with the tickets for which I had already paid. She assures me with relish that there is not. I ask if she could ring up the ticket issuers what with them being London Midland Trains, and what with her working for London Midland Trains. "No" she said in a tone that clearly demonstrated that the last thing in the world she would dream of doing was anything that might possibly help me and that I was obviously insane to think anything to the contrary.
I go in search of the station manager, although I am not after my experience, convinced that such a person actually exists. This involved the four of us being let through the barriers and pointed in the direction of what was allegedly "Customer Services". I explain to a blank looking young man the difficulty and explained that as I have paid for four tickets, and my payment has been accepted, I am therefore not very happy to be told no tickets can be issued and say "Surely there is something that can be done?" He shakes his head and says "No - I don't think there is."
I then see an older, though equally blank looking man. By this time we have watched the train we expected to be on depart.I repeat my tale of woe and he says "Just your luck to get Shirley" for that is the other name of the EBFH. "Surely" (I kept on saying 'Surely') I said, "You can issue a travel warrant as you have the evidence that I have paid for these tickets?" "I don't know" he says and wanders off with my reference number with a vague promise to talk to 'Someone.'
Well we waited, and we waited. The next train came in and was sitting at the platform. Eventually the two blank men return and tell me there is no record of my booking and I can either buy the tickets again or I can wait around until such time as the internet booking reference gets recognised.
It was at this point that a red mist descended on me and I announced "Right, we are now going to go and get on that train and I will sort it out when we get to Euston.Are you going to stop me? " Then they all but read me my rights and warned me I would get fined £54.00 per person for a single journey taken whilst not in possession of a ticket. "I don't bloody well think so" I said as I marched my mum, daughter and niece on to the train and therefore became A Law Breaker.
It was without doubt the most rebellious thing I have EVER done.
(I rang customer services for London Midland from the train. The very nice lady assured me it was not a problem and the tickets would be available for collection at Euston - as indeed they were. And when I told the ticket inspector my story - well, was I fined £216? No I wasn't. He laughed and told me not to worry about it.)
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