April 19, 2010
We won’t be flying tomorrow, because our flight has been cancelled by BA. We had suspected as much.
So…we went looking for alternatives today.
First, we tried to book a train journey from London to Vienna…because – in theory – it’s possible to book the trip, including the Eurostar, online or by phone. We went online. The website crashed twice before telling us that not only could we not book the whole trip online, they weren’t even able to tell us what it would cost, you know, theoretically. The other website crashed only once before telling us the same thing.
So we did the next best thing…we called. At first, I couldn’t get through. But I persevered and called again. Eventually, I made it into the waiting line, which had the ususal horrible music and a helpful voice – „Your queue position is….Ten.“ I waited patiently until my queue position was „One“…then there was more music. And then there was a recorded voice telling me that they were extremely busy and couldn’t take my call at the moment. The recorded voive hung up on me. (Which, incidentially, is exactly what the BA hotline does, too. Only they do it right away and don’t make you pour money down the drain for ten minutes.)
Alright…what’s a weary family to do if the internet won’t work and the phone’s too busy? We try to find the office, of course. We found one (which officially makes EuroRail better than BA, because BA don’t have a fucking office anywhere close to civilisation), but the queue there was long. Very long. Veeeeeeeery long. My sis, who is brave and patient and not as easily bored out of her mind as I am, volunteered to stand in line while we tried to get help at the embassy. That was at half past 12. We went to the embassy, only to discover that it was closed. Because they only really feel the need to work from 9 to 12 every weekday (sonewhat like myself, then…but with much better pay). And because it’s not like there’s anything out of the ordinary happening. (Seriously though…the Brits send their Navy to get people home from Spain. The Germans are organising bus convoys. Meanwhile, the Austrian Foreign Ministry issues a press statement about using the Danube as a transport route while protecting her eco-system. You’d think I’m kidding…but I’m not. If the Austrian Ambassador to the UK finds his car keyed tomorrow morning…it might have been me.)
We went back to my sis who had – it was about an hour and a half later – moved around the first corner (Whee!). We stayed with her for a bit, then Mum and myself went to find an internet cafe to try and get a coach ticket. Because there are direct coaches to Vienna, and almost every day, too. And all you have to do is select a date, tell them how many people will be travelling, accept their terms and conditions, give them all your personal and credit card details, click „Pay“…and read that the coach is already fully booked. My mission, then, was to repeat this spiel for each consecutive bus until I found one that wasn’t full, yet. It took a nice lady and a highly irregular library membership to do it, but we now have coach tickets for Saturday morning, meaning we’ll be in Vienna on Sunday morning. The upside is, we now have a way home. The downside is, it’s on Saturday, which is sort of a long way away, still. The other downside is, we only have our hotel room until Friday…although that might still change, if they won’t open the airports.
So I rushed back to sis and mum in the queue. It was now just after 4 and they were a little over halfway there. The hope now was to get a train that would allow us to leave tomorrow or Wednesday. So…we waited. We waited some more. THe Return of Waiting. Son of Waiting. Abbot and Costello meet the Waiting. The final corner came closer. We heard that the ticketing office would close at 6. Then we heard it would close at 6.30. By quarter to 6, we passed the final corner…only about a hundred people before us now. By six, we could see the actual entrance. And then, things slowed down even more. Nobody came out. Nobody told us anything. We depended on the kindness of those who had made it inside and overheard stuff. They were going to roll down the gate and serve those inside before closing for good. And that’s exactly what they did. They rolled down the gate…right in the faces of people who had been waiting for six hours. With no warning and no info.
Eventually, one brave man who had nothing to do with their company and worked in the Tourist Office next door came out and talked to us. He said that Ferries would take us to Calais without a problem, but SNCF were on strike (of course they are…they’re French), so we’d have to wait and see what we’d get from there. He also said that there was no way to get on a train from Paris to Spain or Italy before Monday. And then he said that the EuroRail office would be open again tomorrow at 9.30, and to best come at 8. He was brave and nice, which was good. But he was also not very helpful, which wasn’t his fault. Still…that seems to be the prevailing theme here. No one knows anything. No one is easily available. And no one is helpful.
Well…we’ll try the phones again tomorrow, I guess.
(Just in case you were wondering…the plan for today before we switched on the news was to go to Tate Britain. Instead we spent it in a queue…which, while at least as British, isn’t anywhere near as satisfying or educational.)