Saturday, 13 August 2011

Day 43: The Horrors of Cut-Price Travel

I HATE coach travel. 

There - I've said it.  I dutifully went for the frugal option for my Ireland trip, and I suffered for it.  There is a reason why those who have money choose the plane or the train.  Because you have to spend just a little less time mingling with the obnoxious and the drunken.  How can you be drunk at 6.15am?  A couple of my fellow passengers managed it.

First of all, the coach ticket stated that I should be at the bus station an hour early.  Why on earth?  It is not as if there was anything resembling security screening.  It is a bus, for Pete's sake!  And an hour early when your bus leaves at 5.15am is very early indeed.  But, fearful of being somehow barred from the journey, I decided to aim for 45 minutes early instead.  I dutifully trundled my suitcase through the streets of Edinburgh (still busy with late night revellers), and arrived at the bus station to find that it didn't even bloody open until 4.45am.  That's right.  It doesn't open until half an hour after you are instructed to arrive.

The bus arrived.  I got on the bus.  There were only four of us, and for the first hour of the journey, things were peaceful.  Then - and I am sorry to stereotype - we arrived in Glasgow.  About 20 people got on.  Some were still recovering from the night before.  One was particularly foul-mouthed.  And all were noisy.  Very noisy.  Then there was a particularly pleasant moment, when someone lit up, and the driver stopped the coach on the hard shoulder and threatened to throw whoever it was off the bus.  And then, after Ayr, two 10 year old boys sat behind me, and decided that it would be highly amusing to crawl under the seats and appear at my feet, so that had I been wearing a skirt, they would have been in a perfect position to look up it.  I resisted the temptation to stamp on the young face at my feet, and instead summoned from the depths of my dark soul my best teacherly tone and tore a strip off them.  They didn't do it again.

After this almost unendurable journey, we finally arrived at the ferry terminal.  Only to find that because the boat had broken down, the 9am sailing had been cancelled, and we would all have to take the noon service instead.  Given that I only had 24 hours in Ireland, this was a huge chunk out of my time.  In a tone tired but mild (in a strained kind of way), I requested a complaints form from the girl at the desk.  I was met with a blank look.  Obviously, we are not supposed to complain, but just let them shoo us into the over-crowded waiting room without anything like an offer of a cup of tea.  All credit to Citylink/National Express, though, because they quickly arranged to transfer us to the Cairnryan-Larne service, run by another ferry company, sailing at 10.30am.  In the event, we arrived in Belfast only half an hour late, and I was impressed by that.  But what a horrid horrid journey.

This is the first time that I have hated having less money.  I don't mind the longer travelling time.  I don't mind the extra planning and preparation.  I don't particularly like, but can cope with, the limits on my social life.  But I do mind the obnoxious behaviour by other people in an environment from which there is no escape.  And now I really really resent my self-imposed poverty, and want to have enough money to travel everywhere first class from now on.  Because more than anything, what money buys you is space, seclusion, privacy, and good old-fashioned peace and quiet.  That is true luxury.

Forgive my misanthropy.  I am sure I will soon regain my general air of vague benignity towards my fellow human beings.  I've just had a little too much of them today.

Total Expenditure: £7.30


Jeremy said...

Stereotype it may be, but location has got to have played a part in this. I have taken coach journeys from London to Exeter and to Sheffield this year, and noone did anything louder than talking on their mobile phones.

Fran said...

Maybe. I don't want to diss Glasgow - it is a great place, and very friendly, and I have friends and family there. I am afraid the experience just brought out the stereotypical cool and snooty Edinburghian in me!