Jan 19 2007

Public transportation hates me this week…

This has not been my best week ever in the commuting department.  I was hoping Monday’s interminable return trip home from Stockholm was an anomaly…but it turns out to have been the start of a trend.

The project I was working on up there involved some videotaping for a webcast, and since several of the principals involved did not have a lot of experience being on camera, the colleague who made my travel arrangements decided to play it safe and book me on a 7:15 flight even though the taping session was scheduled until 5:00.

Then, to everyone’s surprise and delight, the taping went super smoothly and even wrapped a bit early, so I could very easily have made an earlier flight.  But it felt too late to try to change the ticket at that point, so I decided to use the extra time to hang out with my corporate colleagues and schmooze with the bigwigs that were involved in the taping.

I got to the airport in plenty of time for my 7:15 flight and all appeared to be well until I headed to the gate and discovered our departure time was delayed by 20 minutes.  Now I realize that 20 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but when the flight itself is less than an hour and you need to catch an 8:30 p.m. shuttle bus when you land, 20 minutes is a very big deal.

In reality, boarding wasn’t complete until closer to 7:45, and I’d resigned myself to catching the 9 p.m. shuttle.  So the engines are running and we’ve seen the safety presentation and suddenly the captain announces that there’s an ill passenger who has to be taken off the plane before we can leave. GREAT!  And of course even though 80% of the people onboard are commuters with no checked luggage, the sick person has bags that have to be taken off the flight as well. DOUBLE GREAT!

So now everybody onboard is switching their cellphones back on to change their transportation arrangements for when (and if) we ever land at Sturup. And at this point it dawns on me that I’m probably NOT going to make the 9 p.m. shuttle, which will really suck because the next one doesn’t leave for the city until 10:00.  Gaaahhhh!!!!  So now the original 20 minute delay has turned into nearly an hour delay (most of it spent sitting on a small commuter plane while it was parked ont he tarmac) with the prospect of facing another hour’s wait  for the shuttle once we land.  Needless to say, I am NOT a happy camper at this point.

Fortunately there are not a lot of planes landing at Sturup at 9 o’clock at night, so the shuttle bus driver actually waited on our flight and it took every ounce of what little energy I had left at that point not to kiss him.  I was safe and sound back in The Penthouse-Nordic by 10 p.m.

Travel to and from the office went smoothly Tuesday and Wednesday…adding credence to my theory that Monday had been an anomaly…and then Thursday morning the train I’m sitting on is cancelled one minute before its dechuled departure due to some kind of "track malfunction". The engineer advises us that there’s another train we can take that’s leaving in about three minutes…from the opposite side of the train station.

So I literally ran to catch this other train along with about 125 other people who don’t want to be late for work.  And then it turns out the "track malfunction" is limiting the number of trains that can arrive an depart at the same time.  So not only did we not need to rush to change trains…we probably could have stopped for a cup of coffee on the way.

Eventually we got underway…about 15 minutes after the original train should have departed.  But THIS train had to stop in every podunk little village between Malmö and Landskrona so I ended up being a full half late hour for work.  Later that day, the big, modern multi-car regional train that I usually catch going home was replaced with a small and ancient commuter train that’s not very comfortable to ride in the best conditions.  And since there are only four cars in the whole train, there are not nearly enough seats for everybody and I ended up in a group of people standing next to one of the doors in the last car.

This was not an ideal situation but at least the train was on time and moving at a pretty good clip. About 10 minutes into trip we passed another train going in the opposite direction, and the vacuum created as the two trains hurtled past each other not only scared the crap out of everyone standing by these doors…it also sucked them partially open!

So now the noise is deafening and a very cold wind is whipping though the semi-open doors, but the train is so crowded that there’s no place for any of us to go and no way to notify the engineer or a conductor of what’s going on. (On the other hand, I appeared to be the only one in the immediate vicinity who seemed to think that the situation was dangerous.) Miraculuosly, we made it to Lund without anyone falling off the train…and I was able to get a seat from there to Malmö.

It’s no wonder I’m so glad it’s Friday.


Feed my ego!

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