This story is based on an adventure I had recently. What I'm telling all happened, but I might stylise the story to make it a better read. For example, if I can't find a word that perfectly encapsulates my experience, I will write around it if possible, or use an unoptimal word. I'll sometimes also write in English what I might have thought, even though I usually think in Dutch, and not always so explicitly. Besides that I use indirect speech for my thought. I also probably won't use emoticons. ;)
I'm talking about real people here, and might stereotype some, if it's in the benefit of the story. If someone concerned might find this story: please don't be offended!
I made an Extremely Stupid Mistake, and thank God for it
When I leave my usual building at university, I can go either West or South to get to a bus stop. The West bus stop is earlier on the route in the direction I'm going, so the bus will be there earlier, and it won't have as many people in it yet. On Thursday, my lecture ends at 19:00, and if I go to the South bus stop I can always make the bus to Bilthoven.
Today, the lecture ended five minutes early, and I was in no hurry. When I arrived at the bus stop, it was 7 minutes until the bus should come. Sometimes I travel with another guy on Thursdays, but he had left early, as he couldn't appreciate the professor; I was on my own now. "7 minutes… that means I could have gone to the other bus stop. Actually… I might be able to go there still", and I started walking. "The bus will be there earlier, though, and it will take me some time to walk there… moreover, it's not of use, as I will be able to get a seat in this bus anyway, it's never too busy." I, however, was still walking. Sometimes I picked up the pace a bit, but I never ran.
When I arrived at the other bus stop, the bus to Bilthoven was there. I read "31 Bilthoven NS" on its display, so it was clearly the right one. "It's at the wrong side of the road, though… I'll simply wait here, for this bus with the opposite destination on its display–uh-oh". I was on the wrong side of the road, now so clearly! But alas, the bus departed, and without me.
I was very, very frustrated! This being the last bus to Bilthoven, I'd now have to take a bus to Utrecht Central. Besides them going in the opposite direction of home, these buses are also almost always too full to get a seat… and for going in the direction of Utrecht, I was now of course in the later stop, so it would be quite full already.
I took bus 28, and leant back to the wall, to write a very frustrated diary entry on my iPad. I also called my mum, but she did not pick up. I considered installing a game onto my iPad, so I could have something to do, but the bus took me out of internet access before I was able to. I did have my trusted Nokia C1-01 ready, though, and I started reading the featured Wikipedia article, on the history of the British penny from 1714 to 1901.
The bus to Utrecht Central from De Uithof takes longer than you might expect. It was especially annoying because I could have been going in the right direction. But when I got to the train station, I would be able to take the Intercity train directly to Amersfoort, my home. No stops on the way, contrary to the Sprinter train from Bilthoven, which stops at Den Dolder before Amersfoort. I took the Intercity home, and was reading a new article: the West-Frisian language. Now that I don't live in Friesland anymore, the Frisian language has remarkably become more interesting to me. "This looks like a well-kept article, which is good, as I'd rather not come across any mistakes I need to remember to fix at home." "Oh, there are two words missing, here."
To my delight, I was able to fix the mistake easily, even on my Nokia. While busy doing this, train staff walk past, in an unusually flurried manner. I wonder what's going on, but forget about it, before I hear a passenger on the phone: "There was a collission up ahead, so we're heading back." What's he talking about? A bit later, on the broadcast system, the conductress informs: "You might have noticed we have slowed down, and now stopped." Surely, we're moving? I look out at the window, and can confirm that we are in fact still. "Because of a collission with a person of the train in front of us, we have to go back to Utrecht. The train will now be turned around, and we will return to Utrecht." I am shocked, but keep most of my attention fixed on the Wikipedia article. I can hear that the conductress is affected. Poor thing. "It will take some time to turn around the train. After a few minutes we will return to Utrecht. I repeat:…"
"Okay. This is terrible. Not only discomfort and being home late because of stupidly missing that bus, but now having to return?…" … "The train in front of us, huh…" I got my iPad out and connected to the internet. Hah, that's interesting, I could have been using my iPad instead of my phone, as soon as I was on the train. I was able to find mention of the collision within a few minutes, but couldn't find any details. "Is the Sprinter on the same track as the Intercity, though? The Intercity goes a lot faster… Yes, it is on the same track, as most of the time, there are only two train tracks; it's only at and near the stations that they sometimes spread." I then did find a detail: the collission had taken place between Bilthoven and Den Dolder. "Then it must be true… it was my train that collided with a person, and I had missed it because of my crazy action…
I'm Christian, and I do believe that God can and still does meddle with things that occur on earth. I was now convinced that my moment of bewilderment–deciding to walk to the wrong bus stop, even though there wasn't any rational reason to, and there was quite a risk of missing the bus, which I really didn't want to happen–was caused by God directly. And I was very glad for it! I was in a tough spot, surely: but I could've been in a much more terrifying one!
Still, I didn't really know what to do. Ah, I hadn't finished reading the article about the West-Frisian language yet.
When we got close to Utrecht again, everyone who was heading for Amersfoort, as well as those with many other destinations, were recommended to travel via Hilversum. "Let me get something to eat and drink first, as I'll be home later than expected. I'll call my mum in the meanwhile." She didn't pick up directly, but when she called me back, I asked her to call me back later, as I was going to get some food. I got some food, and called her back. Explaining the situation in shortened version, I asked her what train I should take, as I couldn't find the one to Hilversum. She told me the platform number, but I asked her to remain on the phone until I had actually found the train. "I can't find it." I had found the train, but the first half of it was closed, and the second half didn't have the right destination on the display. Moreover, the second half was very quickly filling up completely. "Oh, the other one is opening. But it says 'Do not enter'. People are entering, though." My mum told me I should enter, and I did, but I got a very anxious feeling. "I can't do this!", I squeaked, and I stumbled out of the train. Leaning against a pillar, I let my arm drop and got in a state between anxiety and panic. I started hyperventilating and crying, with the dozens or hundreds of agitated people around me. I was able to clearly observe my surroundings, although my sense of the pillar got a bit uncertain, as if my hand was falling asleep. I saw some people take note of me. One or two looking at me, questioning what's the matter. Then a fair woman comes up to me. Two others as well. I am calmed down, and explain I want to go to Amersfoort. I realise I might still be in the call with my mother, and end it, hoping she won't worry too much. The woman tells me we'll get to Amersfoort, but not by this train, as it's way too full. I look, and it is too full. I'm so glad I'm out of that thing! I take off my glasses, as they aren't aiding me, and I can't wipe my tears or shield my eyes with them on. I am calmed down, and the three girls turn to each other, discussing what to do. "So they're together? I thought they didn't know each other yet–woah, that train really is too full.–Oh, they don't know each other, then?" In the end, I honestly wouldn't know. Perhaps two or all three of these people were travelling together already, perhaps they had found each other a minute ago, or maybe I had brought them together.
At this point, the train to Hilversum tried to leave. All doors closed–except those just in front of us. There were two people who simply didn't fit in. The doors tried to close, but when they were blocked, they opened again. Another try, and another. This seemed like a scene from Asia! Eventually, a staff member got one of the people out, I assume, as I saw her standing on the platform a moment later, and pushed the other further in. He then spread his arms so nobody could go attempt to go in, or perhaps fall out, and the doors tried to close once more. Success! I wonder what happened at Hilversum, though…
The woman that approached me had got an idea: perhaps we could get a taxi? No, too expensive. How about a taxi bus?… She looked up a company, and called the number. Room for 8, and Utrecht Central–Amersfoort Central would cost €75 to €80 euro… That's only €10 a person! We, or rather, they, settled with this plan. In a big voice, the girl called out: "Okay, people! We're looking for 4 persons that want to go to Amersfoort in a taxi bus for €10!" In a smaller voice: "Nobody? Okay…". There was a moment of disappointment, but then another voice was heard: "Um, I don't speak Dutch, but this sounds interesting…" After a quick explanation, she was in. At that point, the people who did know Dutch acknowledged our request as well. Two more people quickly claimed a spot, and we were at 7. I took this opportunity to make sure that I was part of the group, and was ascertained that I had been. Another person decided to take the plunge, and our fellowship was complete. Most of us were students. Two of us were older than the rest: one came from Germany, and had practised use of lab equipment for the past few days. The student who didn't speak English was from Germany herself. The other smoked, and seemed easily irritated. She was. She had to travel to Leeuwarden though, which is 90 minutes further from Amersfoort, so I pitied her for that.
We started our procession, and left the station. After a counting, to confirm we were at 8 still, we followed the signs to the taxi spot. "Shouldn't we call the taxi? Hm, perhaps she's done so already…" When we arrived, there wasn't a taxi there, and after a quick call our tour guide admitted that maybe she should have called before the walk. But a taxi bus would arrive within 15 minutes. "That should give me time to find a toilet… but it'd be stressful either way, I'd rather wait." And I didn't have any problems with that! I had last used the toilet at 6 o'clock, and when I got home at a bit before half to 10, I still didn't have to go badly. That's remarkable, because usually I go every 2 hours or so!
Only a few minutes later a taxi arrived, and right after a taxi bus, which turned out to be ours. That was quick! Our chief asked if €75 would be enough, and the driver answered that'd depend on where we wanted to go. Amersfoort Central. Ah, it'd do. I wasn't sure when or where to get into the bus, but on following a prompt I received I crawled into the seat on the middle row, behind the driver, which was perfect.
I had messaged a friend that I was stuck on Utrecht Central, and now sent her another message, as I was stuck no more! I decided to relax as much as possible, but participate in conversation if someone engaged me. This meant I didn't speak to the people behind and in front of me, but I did talk with those on my row. These were the two older people. The woman made a couple of offensive statements regarding suicide (how inappropriate…), and near the end seemed to get mad at me for living in Amersfoort instead of Leeuwarden, and not having to travel another 90 minutes. The man was nice, though! I also explained what I knew about the collission, as the others didn't know when it had happened.
During the latter half of the trip, our leader started collecting phone numbers, to ask the money back. The German student and man-who-had-been-in-Germany-for-the-past-few-days paid in cash. When we got to Amersfoort, there was €84,73 on the display. The promised €75 was paid, and the display was eagerly awaiting the rest to be paid by someone else. I had €20 on me, which I probably could have traded for one €10 bill, to satisfy the total. I decided to not make things more complicated than they needed to be, though, and leave it be, if nobody asked about it. The taxi bus driver was apparently content. I hope he didn't get reproved for it!
Most people left quickly, in different directions. I didn't know where we were exactly, so I asked where the station entrance was, and realised I should probably put my glasses back on. One of the students got picked up by car: I looked into it, and wow, does her father look like her! I had picked up that our guide's destination was the bicycle storage, like mine was. However, she didn't appear to be going there–at least, not straight away. I waited for her at first, and she asked me how I was now, and I think we exchanged a few sentences. When I realised that she was going to do something else first, I took her leave and went for the bicycle storage, as if it had been a normal day.
And the rest of it was. It was a bit darker than usual, and on the way back I overthought what had happened repeatedly. But I got home safely, and was even able to talk to a housemate about what had happened, before heading into my room to relax for a bit.
And that's what happened. What an adventure! It wasn't pleasant, but it ended well, and I am certainly grateful for that Extremely Stupid Mistake!