To fully understand this story and the length of the train delay it chronicles it is important to know that the Fyra train travels between Rotterdam and Amsterdam via Schiphol every day, twice an hour. It is vitally important to know that it does this journey just in forty minutes which is twenty minutes faster than regular trains which cover the same distance in just over an hour. It is because of this that the Fyra train cost extra compared to regular, slower trains. It is also important to know that about the only fact that they got right was that it costs extra.
We’d already stopped moving shortly after leaving Schiphol and had been sitting in the middle of nowhere for the past ten minutes before there had been an announcement informing us that we were experiencing a small delay (which most of us had worked out by then).
A short while later there was another announcement, upgrading our short delay to an unknown delay (completely skipping medium and long delay). There was a slightly eery synchronised groan from all of the passengers upon hearing this announcement. I did not blame them. I preferred the short delay too. A short delay sounds nice. It’s kind of like, “There is a delay but don’t worry. It’s only a short one.” It’s the kind of delay you laugh jovially about afterwards over cocktails.
But an unknown delay is unknown. It’s more like, “We do not know how long this delay will last. It may last forever or it might not. We do not even know how many of you will survive it.”
I phoned my wife to let her know that I would not be home for dinner and continued my attempts to distract myself with my laptop.
An hour passed and tensions were already starting to raise. The offer of free tea and coffee had done nothing to calm the nerves of my fellow passengers. Perhaps they feared, as I did, what would happen once the supplies of hot beverages run out after the panic buying started. I hoped that there were not many other English people on the train because an English person without tea is not a pretty sight. I tried to put it out of my mind and tell myself that we would start moving again soon.
But a second hour passed and there was still no rescue in sight. Small arguments had started to break out between passengers and staff. The smokers had it the worst. They were starting to go through withdrawal. Eventually the train conductor was forced to give into pressure and opened one of the doors for them before he had a nicotine patch fuelled riot on his hands. He pleaded that they stay on board, huddled around the open door and under no circumstances step out on to the tracks in case they got hit by a passing train. I imagine that some of them tried to make a break for it anyway.
A third hour passed and disaster struck. My laptop battery died. I considered making a break for it with the smokers. With my only form of entertainment gone I was forced to face the full reality of our situation. It was getting dark outside and I had not eaten. I was starting to consider searching for gum under the train seats. I wondered if I would ever see home again.
A fourth hour passed and playing eye-spy with myself was starting to get really boring. It was night time. Other trains continued to pass but we remained unmoving. I was starting to forget what my wife looked like. All hope seemed lost. What if the train never moved again? What if we were forced to stay on the train forever? What if we died on the train? What if…
I jumped up and was about to scream when the whole train suddenly shook and lurched. I froze, unsure of what was happening. A second later there was a huge cheer. People started to clap and high five each other. Could it be? We were saved! Yes we were!
The engine that was going to get us moving again had finally arrived and was being fitted onto the train. A short while later (the good kind of short) and we were being towed… back the way we came. I did not complain. I was happy to be moving again. I sat back down in my seat.
When we stepped off the train at Schiphol it was with a feeling of triumph. We had survived the ordeal. We had faced disaster and come out of it as survivors. I felt closer to my fellow passengers. I wanted to hug one of them and shout, “We’re alive,” while bursting into happy tears of joy but the train conductor I had approached with my arms wide open looked very stern so I decided against this course of action.
Instead I boarded another train home and prayed it did not break down.
My original train journey started at 6:26pm. I finally stepped through the front door of my home at 12:15am the next day. Forty minutes my arse.