Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 07.52 / 07.56 / 08.06 FGW services from Oxford to Paddington , 4/8/11. Amount of my day wasted: err...
Word up, homeys! What's shakin'?
I'll be straight with you from the start Mark, I'll level with you from the get-go, Sue: I don't know how to handle this one.
The thing is: I'm in a state, a tizz, a quandary. I'm in a ball of confusion. (What is a ball of confusion anyway? I mean, obviously it's a Temptations song from 1970 - later covered by Tina Turner and featuring in the excellent film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit... but, I mean, what actually is a ball of confusion? A ball? Of confusion? What the dickens were they on about?)
The thing is: I didn't even catch one of your trains this morning, Mark. Don't get me wrong: I tried, alright. I tried so hard, Sue! I turned up bright and breezy and eager and early, chomping at the bit like some super-keen, stud-ready thoroughbred... you should have seen me, Sue! I was ready, willing and able to catch one of your trains. But I couldn't!
I couldn't catch the 07.52 - because it was cancelled. So I stuck around for the 07.56 - that got cancelled too. When the 08.06 joined them in the by-now oh-so-fashionable cancelled club, I walked, Mark. I turned around and walked out of there, all the way to the bus station, where I paid a further £15 and caught a coach to London.
Don't get me wrong. Obviously I didn't have to catch a coach. I didn't have to pay my extra £15 to get to London today. I could have stuck it out and stuck around. A nice man at the station did tell me things were likely to get moving by about 8.30... but he couldn't promise. (I suspect there was a communications breakdown somewhere, Sue. What do you think?) But the thing is Mark, even if he was right, the platform was already full of (at least) three trains' worth of passengers by that time anyway. The chance of getting a seat would be less than zero. To be honest, I didn't rate my chances of even getting on the thing at all. If it came at all.
So I left. I made like a banana and split. I made like a tornado and blew. I made like a Tom and cruised. I got me and up and got me out and got me on the coach instead.
And the coach is lovely and all - but it's a bit slow, Sue. Don't you find? It's a bit... prosaic. Where's the romance in a coach trip? Would Brief Encounter have been half so heartbreaking had it been set around Gloucester Green bus station and the Oxford Tube? I don't think we'll need to sit and weep through it together to know the answer to that one, will we, Sue? No. Thought not.
So anyway: I got the coach, and arrived to work about an hour and a half late. But the problem is, Mark: how does that square with my project? If the length of this email is to reflect the length of my delay, if I'm to waste a proportionate amount of your time (as you have wasted mine), then what do I do about today's sorry situation?
It's a test case is what it is, Mark! It's - as our bewigged chums in the legal profession prefer to put it - a precedent. If, for example, I decide that a cancelled train is the equivalent of, say, 30 minutes delay, then that's how it'll have to be from now on. The precedent will be set.
But does that mean that three cancelled trains requires me to bang on for an hour and a half of your time? That would be literally insane! (Sorry, I've done it again, you're quite right, Sue. It wouldn't be literally insane at all. It might be a figurative illustration of insanity... but it wouldn't be literally insane.)
What was I saying? Oh yes. That would be literally insane!
I'm not going to bang on for an hour and a half today, Mark. Sue: I don't think I could manage it, if I'm being honest. I haven't got it in me to keep you stimulated for that long. So I'm going to devise a formula. A secret formula! An equation involving the relative differences between scheduled journey times for the train I should have got and the coach I did get, factoring in an integer representing the cancellation of trains (multiplied by three) and with a little bit added on for the walk from the train station to the bus station. And a little bit taken off for the slightly shorter tube journey at the other end.
Not bad, eh? And they said I'd never make it as a mathematician, Mark! They said that numbers weren't my bag! I won't bore you with the exact answer my formula delivers, Mark, but let's just say it's pretty long. Pretty long and pretty inconvenient for all concerned.
But we must get back to business.
What did happen this morning, Mark? The buzz in the station was that a train broke down. Could that be true? Again? How often does that happen, Mark? That trains break down, I mean? What's the lifespan of your average passenger train these days? How often do you replace them? And is that too many questions for one paragraph? Or is this too many? Or this?
I await the answers with breath firmly baited. Or bated. (Sue? Baited or bated?) And in the meantime, I'll leave you with a cheering thought. One ray of sunshine in an otherwise grey and overcast day.
I sat next to a lovely old American gentleman on my coach journey to London this morning, Mark. He was over for his holidays. He "did" the Lake District at the weekend, he "did" Oxford yesterday and he was "doing" London today and tomorrow. On Saturday he was off to France to "do" Paris. He was one of life's doers, Mark! I really liked him! I liked his energy! He was about 85 and he was "doing" London in two days before going off to "do" Paris. Europe was totally his lobster!
When I grow old I'd like to be like that, Mark. The doing bit/Europe being my lobster thing, I mean, obviously. Not the holidaying alone on a coach bit. When I grow old I'd like to be one of life's doers. How about you homeboys? Would you like to be doers someday too?