Life aboard was good again after several
reversals of fortune regarding my first class upgrade. One time, first class
-my class!- had even been sold out. Nevermind that I was able to ride for
“free,” my seat reservation in second class already paid in full by my eurail
pass. “Let them eat cake, I sniffed, as I waded
through the rabbit warren of second class, on my way to the Desolation Row of
my “free” seat assignment.
But my reservation to Marseille signalled a
return to the ancien regime. Carriage 1, seat 75 my
reservation heralded from the rooftops. Which is precisely when it nearly all
came crashing down like the Bastille.
First came the gate change. I can’t understand
PA announcements when they’re in English, much less French, made within the
echo chamber of an airport or train station. But the sudden mass exodus of the
crowd at track five, made me suspicious, so I looked at the departure board.
We’d been moved to gate six. No big deal, except that was only the start of my
Game of Groans, a series of misapprehensions that almost cost me my return to
the nobility of chemin de fer.
The next announcement
that the Marseille train was running fifteen minutes late did not bother me.
I’d experienced delays of as much as an hour and a half over the last couple of
days. Just meant more reading time. After all, I had nowhere to actually be. In
the meantime, this ghost train of a rust bucket TGV slid into gate six. I sat
and stared at the thick layer of dirt on its windows and dull finish of its car
bodies, and wished it quickly away so my sleek shiny chariot of a high-speed
bullet train could arrive and take its place
Only my OCD habit of asking six different
people if this was the right train saved me. After staring at the dirt bag
excuse for a train for some time, I noticed the crowd at my gate had once again
disappeared. I groaned, what gate did they move
us to now? But the departures board still confirmed gate six. Where had all my people gone?
There were a couple of
stragglers nearby, so I gestured whether they were waiting for the Marseille
train. There, they indicated, pointing
to the mudcaked rust bucket I’d been disparaging for the last ten minutes, that is the train to Marseille.
I later calculated, when
I found my first class seat and the train started out, I had come to within
about two minutes of sitting on the platform, watching while the train to
Marseille pulled away right before my eyes.
And I would have gotten exactly what I’d