Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The card and the train

“Are you alright?” asked a very anxious lady next to whom I collapsed on the train. I must have looked like I was going to die any minute because rule number one on the train is you don’t talk to strangers, but apparently she didn’t fancy the idea of me expiring next to her, so she rather asked. I sat there like a wet rat, hunched over and gasping for air. Tonight would be the last parent/teacher interview for the year, this time for Nadia who completed her Prep year and was about to start year 1. I therefore just had to make it in time, no excuses would be accepted. Normally I manage to keep to these appointments without too much trouble and this time would have been no different, were it not for our anniversary that was soon to be celebrated. Let me explain… 

Some time ago I decided to treat the Minister of Finances and Home Affairs with a night out at a fancy hotel with a nice dinner, finished off with a ballet show – Swan Lake to be precise (apparently a guy can score a few points with this one!) We couldn’t really afford it but the plastic in my wallet is patient, and after all it’s been ten years that she stuck it out with me so I thought she deserved to be spoiled a little. Such an evening wouldn’t be complete without that special card so I decided to have a customised card printed for the occasion, one with photos of our wedding on the cover and a personalised message inside. Whenever I’m in need of such a card I always contact my good friends at moonpig (cool name, hey?). This time around I surprised even myself by arranging everything well in advance, but that little voice of wisdom deep inside me said something about express post. I therefore opted for the speedier option, just in case. The good people at Australia Post would then guarantee that I’ll have the card in my hands within the next business day. 

The next day came and went and there was nothing. After the second day had passed I became a little fidgety and started to make some enquiries, just to be informed that Australia Post don’t deliver letters to our office building – I should have had it sent to the post box instead. I logged in to the online tracking portal and saw how my card came flying express post from Sydney to Brisbane just to turn around on its heels and return express post back to Sydney, “Return to Sender”. 

Argh! Since time was quickly running out I decided to spend a few dollars extra to have it reprinted and sent express post, this time to the PO Box instead. I called up a friendly and very sympathetic lady at Moonpig to arrange it all and she said they will reprint it and send it express post at no additional charge to me. “Even though it was my fault?” I asked cautiously. “Yes” she replied, “just because we are nice people.” I agreed with this statement enthusiastically and heartily thanked her and said how wonderful I think they are and what great service they have and I am oh so grateful that they are willing to help me in this way and how much I appreciate it and all that and okay bye. 

This was Wednesday morning. According to the nice lady my card would appear in the post box on Thursday, as if by magic. This worked out well because I was going to take a day’s leave on Friday. For the whole of Thursday I got almost nothing done because every five minutes I had to log in to the online tracking to check. Like the first time, I could see how it flew up all the way from Sydney to Brisbane, but then it got caught up into a holding pattern of sorts, with a status of "in transit" at the "Brisbane CDC" (wherever that may be). The whole day it just sat there. I started to shift about uncomfortably in my chair because this was my last chance, but “In Transit” it remained. 

Eventually I decided that I would to go past the post office on my way to the train station. Maybe, just maybe, it will be there, and if not I will just have to give it to her later. The Gold Coast train leaves Central station at exactly 16:23. At 16:05 I suddenly realised that I was late as usual, so I grabbed my lunch box and bag and made a run for it. I realised this was cutting it a little fine because the post office is one and a half city blocks from our office, with the station being a further two blocks away. Doing this in the time allowed would be a challenge for the best of people, more so for a somewhat chunky person like me. But as my dear wife can testify, time management has never been a strong point of mine. 

I opened the post box as the clock showed 16:12. Bugger! I said aloud to myself, no card in sight. I was about to close the box and make a dash for the train when a small non-descript note caught my eye. At first glance I thought it was some advertisement but then I saw it mentioned something about a letter that had to be collected from a counter somewhere. I grabbed the note and jogged across to the first counter I saw not far from the post boxes, where a lady was apparently sorting through some mail. Her expression told me she had no clue and I was duly directed into the post office. 

This nagging, worrying feeling started to take hold as I ran around the corner and into the post office, taking my place in the queue. Good practise for behaving like a duck – calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath! Fortunately there was only one lady in front of me, but my time was rapidly running out. At this point I was too scared to look at the watch but I braved a peak, to see that it now was 16:14. Nine minutes to go. I couldn’t afford to miss the train but at the same time the card was in my reach and there was no way I was going to leave without it. So there I stood, anxiously waiting my turn with my insides in turmoil while the two fellows behind the counter casually went about their business without a care in the world. 

Finally! After what seemed like forever it was my turn and I was called forward. The friendly chap gave my blue slip one look and said no, this is the wrong counter. Walk out those doors, then turn left and go all the way down the passage till you get to the end, then turn left again and something about a counter and something about a glass window and a bell, but by this time I was turning the corner already and didn’t hear much more as I was charging down the passage in the general direction that his finger pointed towards. 

“Counter with glass window and a bell” I kept repeating, “glass window and a bell”. I ran and searched and ran and searched and ran some more. Eventually I got to a counter but this one was well and truly closed, with a note saying it’s only open until 12:30 pm, with an arrow pointing to some other counter that apparently existed further down. Crikey! How many counters do they have in this place?? I ran some more, turned another corner and there it was, an open counter with a glass window and a bell, but nobody in sight. I rang that bell like there was no tomorrow and eventually this chap comes waltzing along to help me. I presented my note with great zeal and enthusiasm and he disappeared, returning a minute later with card in hand. Luckily for him there was a pane of glass between us else I would have kissed him with joy! 

16:18. When I saw this I just knew there was no way I could make it in time, but I just had to try. I grabbed that card and ran and ran and wheezed and panted and ran and when I felt I couldn’t run anymore, I ran some more. I have never really been one for running - I have about as much ability in that department as the United States has in managing their national debt, but I gave it everything I had. From the post office I crossed Queen Street, then ran past a city block, over Adelaide Street, past another block, through the tunnel under Ann Street, up with the escalators then a sharp right, weaving through the strolling pedestrians, through the station gates, around the corner and down a flight of stairs, six at a time. There the train stood, ready to leave any minute without me. When the doors are about to close there is always a bell and a message warning you to stand clear. I don’t think so mister - this was my cue to make a jump for it in a last ditch effort, like 007 couldn’t have done it. My pants were caught in the closing doors but I was in! Out of breath, panting and dripping with rain and sweat I fell down into the nearest open seat and sat there hunched over and just about ready to die. 

"Are you OK?" asked the very anxious lady next to whom I sat but all I could think of was, I had the card and I was on the train and that was all that mattered. “Yes, thank you dear, now I am OK...”

My beautiful bride and I

Our evening started on a good note.

A lovely evening in a lovely city with a lovely lady by my side.

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