Jul 15 2005

Dodging bullets…

Like every other working person in the world, I have a routine for getting to my office every day. And it never ceases to amaze me how the smallest deviation from that routine can screw me up in a major way.

I commute to my job via a combination of bike or bus and train. The trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes door-to-door. Each month, I buy a commuter card that operates a bit like a credit card. You actually put this card in a machine on the busses and it records your trip. On the trains you just show it to the conductor, along with the receipt that indicates how long it’s valid. (The receipt is tucked into this handy little plastic “wallet” they give you to keep the card in.)

But between June 15 and August 15, the local transportation authority offers a special deal called a “Summer Card” that provides 25 days of unlimited travel all over the region for less than half the price of a monthly commuter card. Naturally this Summer Card is very popular with folks who have to schlep any kind of distance via public transport to get to work every day.

The only difference between using a regular commuter card and a Summer Card is that you have to get a receipt for each trip you take on the train, which involves inserting the card in one of the ticket machines at the station before boarding. This is an extra step from the normal routine and can take a bit of time depending on how many other travellers are trying to do the exact same thing. I’ve been compensating for this by trying to arrived at train station (by bike) a bit earlier than usual.

But yesterday, I decided to try to streamline the process a bit by taking my Summer Card out of its usual location in my backpack and putting it in my front pocket. That way I wouldn’t have to take the pack off and dig around for the card once I reached the train station. Great plan, right? Well, it would have been if I hadn’t gotten distracted sometime between the moment I took it out of the backpack and the moment I *thought* I had put it in my pocket, and instead left it on the kitchen table.

By the time I realize I didn’t have the card with me, there is no way to buy a regular ticket without missing my train, and the next one didn’t leave for 30 minutes. I did have the option of buying a ticket *on* the train, but they charge an arm and a leg if you do that. In fact, it’s tough to decide which is more costly…buying a ticket on-board or paying the fine for not having a ticket in the first place.

So I faced a dilemma…do I get on the train without a ticket and try to avoid the conductor…which will mean risking the fine or the price of an on-board ticket purchase, or wait 30 minutes for the next train? In the end, I decided I spend way too much time in the Malmö central station as it is and would take a gamble that I could avoid the conductor, which I managed to do by shutting myself in the restroom for the first 10 minutes of the trip.

Emboldened by this success, I decide to try the same thing on the way home … because in my mind, I’ve already paid for the trip, I just don’t have the evidence of it in my possession. And besides that, it’s a lot easier to escape the attention of the conductors on the way home because I’m boarding in the middle of the train’s route rather than at the beginning of it. (When they walk through the car asking for new travellers … you just ignore them or pretend to sleep.)

So this is working just fine … and then, while I’m in the midst of trying to keep a low profile, my cellphone rings. I’ve got the hands-free activated, so I don’t actually see who’s calling before I answer it and I assume it’s Dr. Darling. Instead, a voice I don’t recognize says, in English, “Hello Shazzer, it’s Karin.” And I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out who I know named Karin who would speak to me in English. So I say, “Who are you trying to reach?” And she responds, “It’s Karin Nielsen, your doctor. I have the results of your mammogram.”

Turns out “the ladies” are perfectly healthy, which was not nearly as much of a surprise as my physician calling my cellphone and identifying herself as “Karin”!


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