The start of my day involves a short drive to the train station. It’s an uneventful but pleasant drive from the village where I live through country roads to the nearby town and its train station. I even pass fields of sheep and cows. This morning I arrived at the train station car park as normal. However, I quickly discovered a slight problem. I’d forgotten my wallet. No wallet meant no bank pass which meant no entry to the car park. It also meant no train card which also meant no entry on to the train platform and train. I had no choice but to turn around and drive home for my wallet. I was going to miss my train but there would be another one in forty minutes. It would be tight but if I drove quickly I could just make it home and back in time.
Rather than taking the country roads home I decided to return via the short stretch of motorway instead. It only shaved a minute or two off my travel time but every second counted. Unfortunately, the mistake I made ended up adding more than a few seconds. I don’t use the motorway route that often. There is a part where I’m supposed to switch motorways, from the one I was on travelling West to another travelling North. In a moment of self-doubt, I missed that exit. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late. A lorry was blocking me from moving over. With a moan I watched the exit disappear in my rear view mirror as I continued West. I had no idea how far I would have to drive before I could turn around. I continued to drive because I had no other choice. Five minutes in there was still no exit in sight. Five minutes more and I started to wonder if I’d only be able to turn around once I’d reached one of the Wadden islands. However, it didn’t seem like I’d make it that far because. A sudden shudder from the car directed my attention to the dashboard. An orange light had lit up. I’d not noticed it before but my petrol tank was almost empty.
It wasn’t completely empty (not yet) but either way my car is old and doesn’t much like driving on a mostly empty tank. I had to get off the motorway quickly before the car started shuddering again. Another nervous five minutes passed. Eventually I spotted an exit. Luckily it was one I recognised. It led to another country road that could take me home. It would add more time but it would be safer than returning on the motorway in a car that was throwing a fit. I just had to hope I made it before the petrol really ran out.
Luckily there was a cheap petrol station along my new country road route. Ten minutes later I pulled in as the car shuddered a few more times. Luckily I had made it. I opened the petrol cap, walked over to the PIN machine and…
This whole thing had started because I’d forgotten my wallet. How was I going to pay for petrol without a wallet? I closed the petrol cap, got back in the car, sighed again and drove off. Ten minutes and three shudders later I arrived home. Thanks to my motorway detour I’d missed my second train but if I was quick I could get petrol and catch the third one. I had twenty-five minutes to spare.
My wife and four-year-old daughter where surprised to see me. My one-year-old son on the other hand was more interested in the fruit he was eating. He did seem to know something was happening though because as I quickly explained the story he started to giggle. My daughter shook her head and put it in her hands in a display of observed adult behaviour (that follows with most of my explanations).
I quickly gave them all a kiss, grabbed my wallet and set off again… right into the middle of village rush hour. Village rush hour probably does not sound very troublesome until you realize it involves large groups of school children cycling very slowly in random directions. They will cycle in rows of three or even fours, seemingly oblivious to the cars desperately trying to pass them. Then, to add an extra challenge, they will suddenly turn off down a side street, across traffic, without warning. My car shuddered at them in objection but they didn’t seem to care.
Eventually I made it out of the village and on to the country roads. Twenty minutes until train number three left the train station. If I drove as fast as the speed limit allowed I could still just make it. Too bad that the car in front of me decided twenty KPH below the speed limit was much more reasonable for them. I was stuck behind them for another few minutes. With just ten minutes left to catch my train I approached the petrol station and a decision. Stop, get petrol and miss the train for sure or continue and maybe catch the train/maybe run out of petrol in the middle of the town centre… I decided to take the risk. The car shuddered in objection again.
Amazingly I reached the car park despite a few busses getting in the way through the town. I was able to get into the car park and park. On the other side of the fence that separated the car park from the train tracks I could see my train arriving. I sprinted out of the car park towards the entrance. As I approached the ticket barriers I heard the whistle blow that indicated the train was about to leave. I pulled my train card out of my wallet, almost dropping the other cards over the ground. I beeped through the barriers and ran for the closest train door as the closing mechanism started to hiss.
One forgotten wallet, a missed motorway exit, an almost empty petrol tank and some slow moving cyclists/cars and I just made it through the train doors in time as they closed behind me. An hour later than intended I was on my way to work. I still am on my way to work as I write this… And I have no idea if there is enough petrol in my car to get me out of the car park tonight.