Last weekend, I popped up to Preston to attend the leaving do of a former lecturer, and it was great to catch up with faces I haven’t seen in years. Preston seems like it’s hardly changed at all, and I daresay I could still find most of my student haunts (read: pubs and nightclubs) without too much difficulty. Eventually though, it had to end, and I found myself on a train back to Bristol.
Let me give a little background detail here; whilst I regularly use trains to get about, they’re far from perfect. Announcements over the tannoy are incomprehensible, and leave me reliant on random members of the public. Ticket inspectors may or may not be deaf aware, and methods used to attract my attention have included tapping my newspaper, clicking fingers and waving a hand in front of my face. As my legs get less reliable, so I’m finding train stations less and less accessible, with lifts often to be found half a mile down the platform. And so it is, that I reserve a special place in my heart for Birmingham New Street, a place that I detest more than any other in Britain. Noisy, chaotic, and until they installed the screens, the most un-deaf-friendly place I’d ever clapped eyes on.
Ahem. So I’m going home to Bristol, a journey that requires me to change trains at Birmingham New Street, a prospect I didn’t relish. But then – a problem. We sat, unmoving, outside B’ham for 30 minutes before an announcement was made that (according to the man two seats away) there was a fire on the tracks and we would be delayed. Would we really? 10 minutes later, a further announcement that (according to the nice young man opposite me) we would be going back to Wolverhampton for alternative transport. Not great news, but at least I was keeping up, and the other passengers were equally as lost. At Wolverhampton, we were all herded onto a different train and sent back to B’ham. So far , so good.
At B’ham, I got off the train and immediately homed in on the nearest departure screen – thank you B’ham upgraders who put departure boards on EVERY PLATFORM, bless you – which indicated that the next train to Bristol was leaving from the platform I’d just disembarked onto in ten minutes. However, the train I had come in on, which was itself horribly delayed, showed no signs of leaving. So I patiently waited for the screen to change, which it did, sending me to platform 4. However, it appears that an audio announcement wasn’t made at the same time, meaning that as I turned on my heel to march to the correct platform immediately, the hearing were still a little behind me. In fact, I was able to get on the train, pick a seat and settle myself before a small horde of hearing people swamped the train.
Speaking as the one who is usually left behind as an entire platform walks away, the one who has to try and find someone easy to lipread to find out what is going on, or throw myself on the mercy of station staff, as the one who is usually last to receive any useful information, it was wonderful – just this once – to be ahead of the game.