There had been a major storm on Thursday. It’s important that you know this.
A couple of weeks back my good friend Matt was in town from Switzerland. As this is something that – given the appalling cost of air fares – rarely happens, arrangements were made that a bunch of us would get together at Fabes’ place in the far northern wastelands of Darch and spend Saturday hanging out, gaming and just generally catching up.
As a non-driver it’s always been somewhat difficult for me to get up to Fabes’ house. The most usual course of action has been to get the train up to Greenwood, then phone him to come and pick me up. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about this, so it pleased me immensely when some months back Transperth started a bus service from Warwick – the station before Greenwood – to pretty much just outside his domicile. So, a few days before the Saturday meetup I sat down with the Transperth website and plotted out a timetable that would allow me to get up to Warwick in time to catch the first bus of the day to Darch, arriving on Fabes’ doorstep just after 8:00am, thus maximising the time available to hang out with our international visitor. The timetable was as follows…
5:00am: Get up, shower, eat a pre-prepared breakfast
5:50am: Pick up prepacked bags and walk to train station
6:13am: Catch train to Perth
6:25am: Arrive at Perth Station, walk to Perth Underground
6:59am: Catch train from Perth Underground
7:12am: Arrive at Warwick
7:30am: Catch bus
8:02am: Get off bus and walk to Fabes’ house
So, I packed all my bags and in anticipation of my early start went to bed at 7:30 on Friday night.
My alarm went off at 5:00 on Saturday morning. I staggered out of bed and into the shower. I got dressed, ate breakfast, double checked that I had everything and at 5:50 staggered out the door and began walking. Given that the short stroll to the station was the longest walk I expected over the weekend and that rain was forecast, I was wearing my new Doc Martens which, while not yet broken in and hence very harsh on my ankles, would at least keep my feet dry, unlike my old pair which were very comfortable but almost separated from their soles.
I arrived at the station just on 6:00 as planned. I tagged in with my Smartrider and sat down in the pre-dawn darkness to await my train, pleased that everything was running to schedule.
6:13 came and went. No big problem, the trains are usually a few minutes late after all. 6:20 rolled around and I got a little concerned. I was just pulling out my phone to call the Transperth Info Line when the crossing lights started to flash. Finally! I stood up, picked up my bags and stood ready to board. The train came racing around the corner at a speed that indicated it had no intention to stop and barreled through the station, it turning out to be the Avonlink service. Damn. I sat back down and called the Info Line.
“When’s the next service from Bayswater Station?” I asked the woman when my call was answered – quickly for once it being nice and early on a Saturday when all right thinking people were still asleep rather than bothering Transperth operators. “The first train is at 6:13, then the next at 6:45” she informed me. Which I already knew. I thanked her and hung up.
It was obvious at this point that something had gone badly wrong with Transperth’s systems. I could hang around and hope that the by now ridiculously late 6:13 service turned up, wait for the 6:45 which wouldn’t get me to the city in time for my connection, or call for a taxi. I decided to call for a taxi and, after placing the call, trudged over to the carpark, tagging off along the way. Unable to determine how much train travel I’d done between tagging on and off at the same station in the stupidly early hours of the morning, the machine sucked the default maximum $9.00 fare out of my card, which did not improve my mood one bit.
I spent the next ten minutes – which felt like thirty – standing around in the car park vacillating over heading back on to the platform and waiting for any train that decided to show its face, or stay where I was awaiting a Taxi that didn’t seem to want to turn up. Eventually however a cab rolled in, slowly, as if the driver was afraid of being suddenly attacked by a bunyip. I flagged him down and we rode into the city, thankfully in silence as I was in no mood for polite conversation.
He dropped me off at the underground station, and I paid him the $26.00 fare – putting me $35.00 in the hole for a trip that should have cost a tenth of that if Transperth had actually been potest etiam freno circumducere stercore suo. I headed down into the station and caught the 6:59 train.
I sat down in the nearly empty carriage and relaxed. Everything was back under control and my carefully arranged schedule was no longer in jeopardy. Phew!
The train reached Warwick on time and with no problem. I disembarked and got the escalator up to the bus station, checking my watch to confirm how long I had before the bus arrived. My watch read 6:14 giving me…
My watch read 6:14.
The world around seemed to waver and melt. Nothing made sense. Had I somehow looped back in time? Was I was having a stroke. Had I lost the ability to read a clock face, or to do simple mathematics? I blinked hard and looked at the watch again to make sure I wasn’t making some kind of ridiculous mistake. It still read 6:14.
Then I remembered Thursday, and the truth hit. As I stood there in numb shock the last few hours of my life rewound in my head, and I watched them play over, now with a completely different interpretation…
There had been a major storm on Thursday.
There had been a major storm on Thursday which had cut power to my apartment. This required me to reset my bedside clock radio. I’d reset it, but reset it an hour early and somehow not noticed for a couple of days. Its alarm had gone off at 4:00am, and I had got up, showered and dressed, walked down to the railway station just before 5:00 and stood around on the platform getting incensed that the 6:13 train wasn’t turning up at 5:13. I’d then paid a completely unnecessary $25.00 for a taxi ride to ensure that I was an hour early for my connecting train, and was now standing at Warwick Bus Station an hour and 15 minutes early for the first bus of the day, while the train I had intended to catch would just be pulling in to Bayswater station all the way on the other side of town.
To say I was floored at my own incompetence would be an understatement. If the newsagent at the bus station sold beer and had been open at such an ungodly hour I fully believe I would have bought one and downed it in a single swig. I was stunned. Stunned like a mullet. I stood with my mouth hanging open for a full five minutes before my brain dragged itself back into some semblance of order and I started to consider my options.
I could wait around on the cold, windy platform for over an hour. I could catch the next train to Greenwood and give Fabes a call for a lift. I could catch the next train back to Perth, then back out to Bayswater, walk home, go back to bed and then never leave my apartment again. In the end I decided to send Fabes a text message asking for a lift, ride up to Greenwood and start walking – the idea being that he would get my message when he woke up and by then I should be well on my way to his place – or at least the shops about halfway, reducing the inconvenience of having to come and rescue me.
A fine plan, which I put into action. A fine plan, except that I forgot to account for a few important factors…
1: I was wearing my new, unbroken-in Doc Martens.
2: I was wearing a heavy backpack full of games and other sundry amusements.
3: I was carrying an aluminum tool case containing a copy of Arkham Horror with a couple of add ons.
4: I was wearing a heavy coat to compensate for the early morning chill.
5: The distance from Greenwood Railway Station to the shops was not about a kilometre as I though, but four kilometres.
6: I am a fat, unfit bastard.
With no response from Fabes by the time I reached Greenwood I started out walking.
The first few minutes were reasonably pleasant. I strolled along the roadside as the sun rose slowly over Darch, happy that I was taking responsibility for my massive time-based cock up, and that all was well. But then I started to sweat. And the duct tape that I had slapped onto the back of my ankles to protect them from my boots began to rub off. And with that gone, the skin started to rub off. Within the first kilometre I was in a state of increasingly sweaty agony, but kept soldiering on in the desperate and quite inaccurate knowledge that the shops would be just over the next hill. I started lurching, trying to find a gait that would allow me to keep moving without tearing my ankles down to the tendon. My coat and hat became soaked with sweat and I couldn’t remove either, not having any way to transport them at the same time as my backpack and Arkham Horror box. My disheveled and hobbling appearance became so extreme that early morning joggers started veering off the path to get avoid me, no doubt wondering if they were witnessing some kind of publicity stunt for The Walking Dead, and the rain clouds gathering on the southern horizon moved closer, threatening to add another torment to my catalogue of discomforts.
After what seemed close to a million years I reached the shops. I had just enough energy to stagger over to the bus stop and collapse, finally able to shed my coat and hat. About three minutes after my arrival, the bus – the same bus that I had intended to catch at Warwick – hove into sight and I flagged it down, much to the consternation of the driver who seemed uncertain of what fare to charge gimping sweat monsters. I rode the rest of the way to Fabes’ house, and staggered up to the door just after 8:00am as planned, but much more tired, pain-filled and filthy than envisaged the night before.
Apart from that it was a great day.