My first day to attempt public transportation was not a good one to begin with. It was a frigid 17 degrees and snowing. Armed with the optimism and innocence of Leisel Von Trapp, the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons and my bit of paper with my train & bus information that my dear friend Laeticia helped me assemble the night before, I thought I was prepared.
3 hours later, standing unsheltered in the cold, waiting for a bus that never came and ever so quickly losing what little feeling was left in my fingers and toes, the revelation came – I had grossly underestimated my opponent.
Belgium Public Transport came in swinging and I pretty much just peed my pants and ran back to my corner.
A little post battle summary for you:
2 – the number of times I’ve gotten on the wrong train, turned around and come home and had to ask someone to drive me to the office because I couldn’t navigate myself from my wrong destination to my correct one.
1 – the number of times a bus driver laughed at me when he read the piece of paper I showed him that had the name of my stop because I couldn’t pronounce it. *in his defense written under the name of the stop was ‘tell the bus driver what stop you want and pay what he tells you’. He happened to read this bit out loud as well.
3- the number of times I’ve missed my stop whilst on the bus because I am not familiar enough with the area to press the red ‘stop here’ button to tell the driver to stop.
3 – the number of times I’ve asked the bus driver to tell me when we are at my stop.
0 – the number of times the bus driver has complied with my request.
6 – the number of hours I’ve wasted on an errant train that I should have spent at the office working
9 – the number of times I’ve had to ask someone on the platform to translate what the lady on the loudspeaker just said.
3 – the number of times the train attendant has furrowed his brow at me because I hadn’t yet written in my stops on my key card.
10 – the number of train rides I’ve paid for.
18 – the number of trains rides I’ve taken, erroneous and correct.
It has taken me 2 weeks to get to the point where I don’t sit on the edge of my train seat and press my face against the window every time the train slows down to see if I’m missing my stop. But then again, just yesterday, I rode all the way out to Leuven because the train I normally ride no longer stops at my station. BPT slapped me in the face with a new train schedule as we cruised on past my stop and the helpful train attendant looked at me like I was a stupid American (okay, I am, but still…) and kept saying “Leuven” in her thick Dutch accent, when I asked if the train stopped at Deigem. If nothing else, at least I had multiple confirmations on where I was headed.
I no longer take the bus. I just walk the 1.5km between the office and the train station. This little decision saves me 4 euro and I get to walk off the waffle I bought at Midi Station for breakfast that morning.
This love/hate relationship with my nemesis, can best be summarized by quoting the ever eloquent Andy Bernard - [BPT] may have won the battle, but I will win...the next battle.