We all have our triggers, things that can send a generally rational person into out-of-control panic mode. One of my triggers (and I usually consider myself to be a pretty laid back sort of person) sits skulking on the platform of my local railway station; the self-service ticket machine.
It’s a standing joke with my family. Supposedly funny remarks are frequently made, in all sorts of circumstances, about allowing ‘enough time for the tickets to print’. Enough time, in humorous banter, being several hours, or perhaps a day or two. But it’s no joke to me. That machine is slow, and there’s always a queue. I’ve seen people miss their train while they wait patiently for the tickets to slowly appear. My fear of this happening is, of course, entirely out of proportion with the likely consequences. But fear is a powerful beast.
So I allow lots of time, and am then happy to wait 30 minutes for my train secure in the knowledge that I have my precious tickets in my hot sweaty palm.
Well today I was off on the train to a conference. I set out good and early, my little suitcase suspiciously full for an overnight stay (packed with running and swimming gear, just in case).
I approached Bridgwater Railway Station feeling smug in the knowledge that I had plenty of time to spare. Then, with a sudden shock, I noticed barriers all around the car park as men were busily working away in the June sunshine.
‘What?’ I shouted. ‘What, what, what?’ And some other words too. A sign: ‘Car Park Closed. Please use temporary car park in Clarks Road’.
Well, I had no idea where that was. I pulled over, dug my phone out of my bag, looked up Clarks Road, saw it was close by, and set off again.
I found the car park, which was on the other side of the station, parked up, ignored the sign telling me which way to go and headed off over the wrong footbridge, realised my mistake and sorted myself out. What if they’ve moved the ticked machine I wondered, without cause. How will I know where to find it? Other nonsensical thoughts tried to push themselves into my frazzled brain. I blocked them out. Just keep going; you’ve got time.
I dashed along the platform to the correct footbridge, heavy suitcase spinning over as I rushed, and noticed people starting to position themselves ready to board the train.
As I crossed the bridge I noticed the ticket machine was there. Good. But a man was using it. Slowly. He held his phone casually in his hand as he looked up his booking code.
‘No, no, no, too slow, too slow, too slow’, I muttered to myself.
I dropped my suitcase next to the poor chap and started babbling about the car park and the footbridges, and oh the slowness of this machine.
I was shaking and felt like I might vomit. The machine trundled out tickets in painful slow motion.
The man responded to my crazy babble with sympathetic reassurances.
I got my tickets – just in time. Really, only just. My children will joke and say ‘What, only half an hour to spare?’
But it really was close. Seconds to spare.
But – if I’d missed the train, what’s the worse thing that could have happened? Really?
Sat on the train, I started to wonder about my car. Did I lock it? Put it in park? Close the windows? Apply the handbrake? ARE THE DOORS WIDE OPEN?
Stop it, I said to myself.
Why do we do this to ourselves? My rational, thinking brain switched off this morning, and panic took over.
And for what?
I now feel a bit silly. But I’m not going to be hard on myself. We are none of us perfect. We can just keep trying.
And I very glad of the running kit in my suitcase because, above all else, what I now need is a good run.