Got a wee bit annoyed today when I couldn’t find my bus stop.
It’s not that I was in an unfamiliar area, looking for a bus stop, oh no! I got off the tram in the usual spot after a class I teach every week, crossed the road to my bus stop, and there it was… gone. What sort of sadistic bugger goes around stealing innocent people’s bus stops?
Muttering to myself about random abductions of methods of public transport (my tram line disappeared the other week, I’ll tell you about that another time. Yes, tram line. Disappeared. Overnight.), I skulked around for a while trying to locate my missing bus stop. I found the one I’d arrived at earlier, on the other side of the road, where it was before and therefore where one might reasonably expect it to be. I wandered up the road, down the road, around a corner, up a hill, across a confusing set of tram lines… but alas! my bus stop was nowhere to be found. I do not know what became of it, because I was fecking freezing and conveniently very close to a metro station anyway, so I gave up and went underground.
I can just as easily catch the metro from that tram stop as the bus (more easily, in fact, if the bus stop has been stolen. Much trickier to remove an entire subway station.), but it’s usually less hassle to just get off the tram, cross the road, and get on the bus. The metro involves stairs, escalators, annoying crowds, and changing trains in the packed city centre.
Oh, and in the case of today, a cordoned off downwards escalator, a load of workmen’s arses, and a sullen-looking staff member hovering around the ticket office.
I looked uncertainly at him, and then at the disaster zone, and then back at the staff member, assuming he was about to give me some very necessary information. I have been coming to a slow but steady realisation, however, about customer service in the Czech Republic, so I snapped out of my assumption more rapidly than I might once have done. Excuse me, I said politely (and slightly nervously, as members of staff in various places have either yelled at me or glared at me for daring to speak to them), um, how do I get down to the platform? I gestured at the broken escalator, cordon, workmen’s arses etc.
Surly staff member somehow glared at me and rolled his eyes at the same time, which I thought was quite impressive. You can’t get down, he said, as if it was perfectly obvious. Which it was, I suppose, but I had been hoping he might provide some kind of solution. I looked helplessly at the broken escalator fiasco, back up towards the missing bus stop chaos, and wondered if I was destined to just never get to my next class.
Go to the next station, said Mr. Surly, surlily.
I trudged dejectedly back towards the doors, with no idea where the next station might be, and then paused to watch how the other potential passengers would deal with the situation. A few got the same response as I had, and turned away in annoyance. One man looked incredibly stressed out and tore back up the steps to the street as if his life had depended upon him catching the next train. I was just turning to leave when a group of French travellers arrived, and sauntered noisily over to the surly staff member in a cheerful mess of backbacks, scruffy hair, and general sexy Frenchness. They were surprisingly unperturbed by the escalator chaos, and refused to be scowled off. I edged closer to them, hoping that they would get more out of the surly staff member than I had. Can’t we just go down the up escalator? asked one of them. Mr. Surly looked – for about half a second – vaguely outraged at such a suggestion, but almost instantly regained his “I really have lost interest in life” composure. He shrugged, and made a “whatever” sort of gesture, then did his impressive dual glaring and eye-rolling trick as one of the guys sprinted comically towards the ‘up’ escalator, yelling something that might have been French for “tally ho!”, “geronimo!”, or similar. Everyone laughed, and then cheered as he took off at a run, down the up. I couldn’t help going over to join them and peer down curiously, and sure enough, there he was, running away and managing to beat the escalator, leaping off at the bottom and bowing dramatically. One by one, the French people took off down the up escalator, amidst much cheering and laughing (and equal amounts of blank stares from the locals). One of the last ones gestured to me with a grin. Haven’t you always wanted to? he asked.
And the thing is, I always kind of have. Haven’t you?! I mean, not that it’s a lifelong dream or goal of mine, or anything – but, well, you know. Some of those underground escalators are really, really long, and it gets pretty boring standing there trapped in a crowd of people moving up or down, and my mind wanders. And the truth is – yes! I have often wondered what it would be like to go up the down or down the up.
So I thought, feck it!, and joined the crazy travellers in their sprint down the up.
It wasn’t quite up there with riding wild horses in Mongolia or walking across Brooklyn Bridge at night, but I did it, and I’d do it again, I tell you. Slightly unnerving, a tad risky (there’s no way Mr. Surly would’ve let us do it if he’d been British – health and safety, chaps, you know), and surprisingly fun.
And that is the story of the missing bus stop, and how I got from one class to the next today.