An Ode to the Victoria Station Ticket Counter

Getting to the grand-children from Central London is theoretically easy. Try buying a train ticket.

Setting off

Don’t worry, we’ll have time to spare,
The bus will get us quickly there.
What’s the problem, what’s the hurry?
It’s just a train to Oxted, Surrey!
It’s not as if we’re off to Reno
There’s time to buy a cappuchino,
And watch the people looking bored,
Studying the departure board.

At the station

So here we are, there is a queue,
Surprise! surprise! Now, what to do?
This line looks quick and is quite short,
And moves as queues in stations ought.
A piece of luck! Look at the rest,
They’re hardly moving; this is best!
Our happy star in the ascendant
There’s time to read the “Independent”

In the queue

What did she say? A ticket where?
Via Ayr to Weston-super-Mare?
Then Isle of Man to John O’Groats,
Requiring passages on boats?
Then Exeter and back to Hull?
Ah! The clerk just said that train is full.
She’s booked it for another day.
Time’s running out, she’s still to pay.
Ten kiddy fares, three o.a.p’s,
Returning in September, please?
Good heavens, what did I just hear?
She wants the seats to face the rear?
Thewheelchair’s at a special rate.
Oh, get a move on, we’ll be late!

The quicker queue

I don’t believe it! Did you spot
The woman in the polka dot?
She sat quite near us on the bus
And joined the next queue after us.
She’s got her ticket, raced right through,
I knew we shouldn’t join this queue!
The train leaves at ten-twenty-three.
To hell with this, come, follow me.
We’ll join this so much quicker line,
Don’t get upset, we will be fine.
In just three minutes we’ll be done,
Though once I’ve paid we’ll have to run.

Queue dynamics are unpredictable

Excuse me, what did that fellow say?
He wants to get to Colonsay?
That’s in the Hebrides. You sail.
You can’t get there by British Rail.
This clerk is really too polite,
At this rate we will be here all night.
Oh, no!
Please don’t be angry, don’t get started,
The train we planned on’s just departed.
Of course, a possible malfunction
Might make it stop at Clapham Junction.
A speedy cab could drive us there,
But bank on that I wouldn’t dare.
Our burger’s cooked, we’ll now be late,
It’s very near an hour to wait.

The outcome

O.K, O.K, that’s not so long.
We started late, I’m in the wrong.
The problem now might seem bizarre,
But our hostess will be in the car.
She has no cellphone and she’ll wait,
Not knowing that her guests are late.
The kids will bawl, and, tired, will whine,
And then she’ll get a parking fine.
And there she’ll sit and quietly curse us,
Our visit will be vice-versus.
Relax!
There is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
The moral of the story’s plain:
Should you decide to go by train,
It takes more queuing at the station
Than time spent at your destination.
Never mind the sheer frustration
Of ever-shifting line migration.
Never mind the time that’s lost,
The station only thinks of cost.
What if it stretches half a mile?
One clerk will do, just tell him, “Smile!”
Thus, queuing is a form of zen –
You may arrive, but who knows when?

July 2003