My fourth grade math teacher once wrote on my report card – “Irene is a very caring and bright child, but she needs to work on her attention to detail.”
Those three words – attention to detail – would continue to follow me from simple algebra onto university, personal life and work. Send emails without attachments? Yup. Show up on Wilson Road instead of Wilson Street, making me almost half an hour late for my date? Happened last week.
It seems like I rush through life without taking note of the little things, the small details. Typically this doesn’t really matter, except for this past weekend…
I was due to travel via Eurostar to Belgium with a few friends. Taking after my father, I showed up at St. Pancras station much earlier than I needed to. But I like the feeling of having loads of time to get a coffee and relax before checking in for travel.
Upon meeting up with my travel companions, myself and one other noticed that our train was delayed. There it was in big capital letters – BELGIUM: DELAYED ONE HOUR.
After a little grumbling, we settled down to breakfast. Still relaxed. Still chilled out. 45 minutes later we walked up to the Eurostar gate.
Strangely enough, our ticket wouldn’t scan. Upon closer examination, the Eurostar man said “I’m sorry, but your train left”
There were shouts of protests –
“But it said delayed on the board”
“We’ve been here for over an hour now!”
Which was followed by the Eurostar man asking us which board said this…to which I triumphantly replied “That one!” pointing my index finger at the big capital letters that said “BELGIUM DELAYED ONE HOUR”.
And there it was, just half an inch above where my finger was pointing at, in even bigger capital letters, the word “ARRIVALS”.
Perhaps it was the prospect of dealing with four tearful (in my case, sobbing) girls that stirred some strings of sympathy in the Eurostar man, but he directed us to the ticket office whereupon we were booked onto the next train out to Brussels at no extra charge.
With that, I strolled up to the Champagne Bar in St Pancras, and amidst the trains rolling in and travellers spilling onto the platform, I toasted the wonderful Eurostar man.
Despite the mishap, the trip to Belgium was a wonderful albeit hazy 30 something hours of delicious beers, even better frites and countless chocolate shops.
As for train travel? I learned my lesson. Reading the wrong board? A rookie mistake surely. And even with that, we all agreed that going via Eurostar was a much more civilised way of touring the continent. For one thing, train carriages that rock from side to side make most people pass out. That means no annoying person sitting beside you who wants to talk for the entire journey.
Also, people just seem nicer on trains. Perhaps it’s because they haven’t been up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to the airport, only to stand in a huge line for security and get stuck behind that person who has a bottle of water in their bag, keeps their belt and shoes on and has a piggy bank of change in their pocket.
All in all, it was a pretty amazing first foray into Belgium.