So my trek northwards began Friday afternoon … managed to lug my suitcase onto the tube and up to Euston train station, one of a number of railway hubs in the city.
Got my ticket printed, chilled for a few minutes, and then boarded the right train at the right time. So far, success.
It was at my stop that the trouble began. I noticed the train start to slow down and seeing the signs for Stoke-on-Trent, so I jumped up and began the slightly arduous task of trying to wrestle my suitcase from its hold behind my seat. By the time I got it upright and was making my way to my seat to get my backpack, the train had stopped and passengers were getting on.
It was a nightmare. I couldn’t budge, so I had to stand at my seat, blocked in by my suitcase, while other people passed. Finally, the coast was clear, and as I started lugging my stuff down the tiny, tiny aisle, I got my first lesson about Virgin Trains.
Seasoned travellers, please skip this part, because you all know far better than me. But for anyone ever planning on coming to the U.K. and making part of your trip overland: Virgin Trains is NOT like VIA Rail. The train doesn’t stop and wait to make sure everyone has boarded or gotten off, that has to. Virgin’s Pendolino trains run on a tight schedule, so tight that sometimes, some of its scheduled trains may actually stop longer than expected because they’re ahead of schedule.
I found this out the hard way. The train probably stopped for a total of maybe three or four minutes, tops. As soon as I finally made my way towards the doors to exit, the train slowly started pulling out of the station.
“No!” I said to myself as I saw the train moving out. “No! No! Shit! No! Shit! SHIT!”
It was too late though. My friend Sabrina, who was waiting for me on the other side, would have seen people get off, and then would watch as yet another train pulled in a short time later, with no me in sight.
In the meantime, panicked and upset, I first went to find the station manager to explain what had happened to me and which stop I could get off at next to get back on track (so to speak). Went up and down the entire train (I had stashed my stuff on a non-reserved seat in my car). No manager in site. I returned to my “new” seat near the door, very frustrated.
I asked a nearby passenger if she’d seen the manager, and if she knew which station was coming up next. She said no to neither. But bless her heart, she lent me her mobile to try and call and text my friend. No luck, but it was the gesture that counted.
Turns out the next station was Macclesfield, which was about 15 minutes away from Stoke-on-Trent. I stood in the little area between cars with all my gear, and as soon as the train stopped, I was off there like a hobo off a freight car. I went up to the first train staff member I found and explained my predicament. He told me that there was another train going back to Stoke-on-Trent in about 20 minutes and that I had to go to the opposite platform across from us, via elevator.
Great. So I went up and over. On the other side, I looked for a payphone. No phones. Because they were on the way out. On the other side of the platform from which I came. Twit.
So back up and over I went, through the ticket/waiting area, outside where cars waited to pick up people. The phones were on the other side. I made a call to Sabrina, but I got a message saying her phone was off. I called her house and talked to her mom, who told me to stay put.
THEN my that’s when my second scatter-brained nightmare of the day took place. After making my calls, I went back into the waiting area and sat down, trying to chill out for a few minutes. After what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes later, I jumped up with a start.