Staying calm and saving money

Calming Colours

I expect the train network here in Melbourne is like every other train system in the world, unreliable, maybe with the exception of Japan. However, as a young boy the basic Lima Train set I had was my grounding in the possibilities of seamless rail travel. I could run the train continually around the tracks while switching lines, almost rarely having to stop the train. In fact running several trains on the same lines was just as easy and my passengers were never delayed. Contrast this to what happens in the metro rail network and I am one disillusioned customer.

Anyway my story begins on a hot summers day and  trains tend to not like the hot weather or at least the poorly installed tracks tend to buckle a little in excessive heat. The trains leaving the city were delayed for various reasons or should I say excuses because I never believe the stories/lies they feel compelled to tell. The platform started to choke with the steady influx of passengers trying to make there way home but with fewer operating trains.

Finally, my train arrived on the platform, I hopped aboard and I was on my way home to pick up my kids from childcare. Childcare and work seem to go hand in hand as generally you have to work to afford childcare and need childcare if you want to work. Ideally I’d prefer neither and are heading towards this long term ideal.

The train was hot and packed, which is never a good combination late in the day. You just take a few deep breathes of fresh air when you can and resent having to pay a full fare for a less than reasonable service. Everyone is angry with the delays and at every stop the waiting passengers truly believe there is room for just one more, even though everyone just squeezed tightly for the previous person, the glimmer of hope in that next persons eyes just makes you want to try a little harder. Eventually, the people on the platform heed the announcers advice that the train is full and the next train is only one minute away and is actually waiting to arrive at this platform

As time passes and we get further down the line, the carriages slowly empty and most are able to sit down. Only a few more stops to go and then it’s all over for today’s commute. But wait, just like a crappy game show there is more drama to come as we stop at the third to last stop and the train driver announces that we will not be proceeding further due to the heat, track problems or failed signals, take your pick at today’s excuse. With one last attempt they try to calm the disgruntled passengers with offerings that buses have been organised for the continuation of the journey. Of course they hadn’t.

So here we were, 100 people standing at the bus stop waiting for that elusive connecting bus, which never appeared and my time was quickly running out before childcare pickup times ended. I was starting to become anxious and instantly started looking around for possible solutions before it was impossible to think clearly. It looks like I had a full taxi fare ahead of me which was still going to be around $30-$40 because just two more stops for me was about a 15km journey.

Just then a maxi-taxi (taxi van with about 10 passenger capacity) appeared in the taxi rank and I thought perhaps I can get some other passengers involved. The one thing that was stopping me was I’d actually have to speak up and ask them. It took me a few failed starts before I could find a loud enough voice to broadcast my offer of a ride home in a shared cab. To my surprise people started to accept the offer and we ended up splitting the ride seven ways, which worked out to be a $5 journey. I made it to the pick-up with time to spare and suspect I was home before the rest had even left that bus stop.

Lessons learned:-

In a group situation of a hundred it is more than likely a percentage have exactly the same needs and thoughts as yourself

Staying calm enabled me to be a little creative about the journey home and not just expecting the train company to deliver on broken promises

Speaking out, although outside of my comfort zone was able to save me time, money and further stress

I would have never had this stressful day if I didn’t commute, work and need childcare

How would you have reacted in this situation? Maybe these dramas are just a normal part of your day in the wheel. Do we need to accept this as the status quo?

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