The 10:41 To Lubiana
The 16: 50 (you would think) to Trieste
In keeping with my obsessive compulsive system of triple checking and double repeating directions to make sure there's no possibility of error or misinterpretation, I dutifully noted the bus number and platform for the outbound bus for my day trip the following day from Trieste to Lubiana, Slovenia. On the itinerary, I circled the relevant bus and platform numbers on the outbound ticket.
The following day dawned cloudless and sunny, and I boarded the correct bus at the correct platform as duly encircled on my itinerary, and set off for a carefree visit to the westernmost country of eastern Europe.
Snowcapped peaks followed the ninety-minute bus route into Slovenia’s capital of Lubiana, with a beautiful set of peaks sitting in perfect backdrop to the cityscape upon arrival in what .seemed a prosperous city. I immediately set off on foot to explore. There wasn't much to see, a fairly uninteresting chockablock of German-style modem non-architecture. I was about to turn back, when I spied a narrow, crooked alley ahead, with sagging tile rooftops indicative of the old section of town.
Suddenly, I knew where every Lubianian was this Saturday afternoon. The festival stretched and wound down to the river, mobs of people, children and dogs filling the streets and cafes. A burger fest was in progress, featuring Flinstone-sized patties, each burger maker trying to outdo the next in creating instant atherosclerosis.
I had lunch, a sensible-sized chicken sandwich, and wandered about, until it was time to catch my bus back to Trieste. That's when Burger Fest became Stupid Fest.
It began with a small, almost too-minor-to-take-seriously oversight on my part. When I checked my return itinerary, I saw that, silly me, I had neglected to circle the relative bus platform numbers. No worries. I can see at the station there is a platform 4 listing Trieste as a destination, and there is a 4 on my itinerary. Surely, my bus will be arriving here.
Exactly at the same time as my bus was due to arrive at platform 4, a bus matching the one I took in to Lubiana pulled into platform 30. Mildly curious over the coincidences, I wandered over to platform 30. None of the destinations listed included Trieste. I thought of asking the driver to confirm this was not the bus to Trieste, but why irritate the poor, overburdened driver trying to board his passengers?
Instead I left the boarding area, and returned to the ticket office to confirm my interpretation of the otherwise unintelligible travel document.
“I’m inquiring about the 16:50 bus to Trieste now due at platform four,” I said with great precision and command of detail.
“The Trieste bus leaves from platform 30,” the agent replied with equal command of precision and detail, and then added with special Stygian emphasis, “always platform 30.” With a pedantic flourish, he even pointed to the number 30 on my itinerary that I had neglected to circle that morning.
I immediately turned and ran out of the station just in time to wave goodbye to my now former fellow passengers back to Trieste. The next bus was at 20:25, some three hours later. Adding a certain, je ne sais qua, the one-way fare back to to Trieste now cost exactly as much as the round trip fare did that morning. With absolutely no one on the planet to blame but myself (and, incidentally, as a solo traveler, no one to apologize to but myself), I manfully accepted my self-inflicted fate and returned to the burger fest to kill off three hours. As long as nothing else goes wrong, it won't be so bad.
Three hours later I was back at platform 30. “Excuse me, but are you waiting for the Trieste bus?” It was a young man speaking excellent English having no doubt watched me pacing off the last twenty minutes at platform 30 until eight twenty-five arrived.
“Yes,” I said.
“It's running an hour and five minutes late.”
To keep myself from jumping in front of the first bus moving past platform 30, I set my mind to pondering how a bus running late on a busy highway could possibly accurately account for that five minutes part of the hour and five minute late estimate.
Sixty-five minutes later (did he park somewhere to make sure that five minutes part of the late arrival would be affirmed?), we were on our way to Trieste only to arrive after all busses and taxis had by now shut down for the night. Halfway on my walk home, I found a driver with his light off counting his day’s receipts and asked if he was still open for business. Whether I wore my own day in the expression on my face, I couldn't tell, but he accepted the fare. He deposited me at my apartment at 11:30 p.m., about five hours later than I had originally planned for the day. I dove headlong into the gelato I had stashed in the freezer.