Friday, April 1, 2011

What doesn't kill you, part 3.

After going back and forth with Train Station Guy a few times, trying to find out if there were any other options at my disposal, I left in a huff and went back to the hostel to get online and see if I could change the method of retrieval of the ticket.  Well, after 15 minutes of searching the (unhelpful) French site, I finally came across a page that said, “method of retrieval cannot be changed.”  So that was great.

My only option at that point, it appeared, was to just buy another ticket.  That wasn’t going to happen.  I was already pissed off at the SNCF because the price of my ticket jumped up 30€ during a two hour window when I was going to buy it the first time, so I was already paying an outrageous price for a three hour train ride.

I found out about not being able to change the ticket just as I was supposed to be meeting one of the guys I met at the hostel for drinks.  It was his 25th birthday, so I put my worries to the side for the time being and we went and had some delicious Dutch and Belgian and Irish beers.  It was a lot of fun.  Jason, a Brit, had been living in Africa for the past two years working with this bicycle distribution NGO.  He was just back for two weeks to put together a portfolio and apply for a graduate program at Eindhoven.  So, he wasn’t there to party hearty.  That being said, it was his birthday, plus it was St. Patrick’s Day, so we had to do something.

The next morning I woke up and went back to the train station first thing to see what the cheapest price I could find for a new ticket would be (130€).  Not an option.

I was trying to go through all these different options in my brain to see what I could possibly do.  I begrudgingly came to the conclusion that, as I am now an “adult,” I should just do the mature thing and exchange my ticket for a new one, rather than brazenly jumping on the train without a legit ticket.

My original ticket said that I could exchange it once and get a 50% refund, so I figured, all in all, it would still be cheaper to just buy a new gd ticket than get a fine on the train.

So that’s what I did.  As I was refunding my ticket, I was surprised to learn that I got refunded for 100% of the original ticket.  There was a brief period of 2 minutes where I actually thought fate was smiling on me.  Then I went to buy my new ticket.

I selected my desired date: same day.  Selected country of retrieval of the ticket: The Netherlands.  Selected origin and destination: Amsterdam Centraal, Paris Gare du Nord.  Selected the time of the ticket I wanted: 14:15.

The screen came up asking me to put in my credit card info, and then I was allowed to select my options of ticket retrieval.  When I bought my ticket the first time I had the options of printing the ticket at the train station, printing it at home, or going to an SNCF boutique and doing it.  I picked “print ticket at train station” because then I wouldn’t have to worry about carrying it around with me/forgetting it/getting it stolen/whatever.  It’s just simpler and it’s what I always do.  Wouldn’t you know that the only options it gave me this time were: retrieve ticket at station or retrieve ticket at French SNCF office.  Why can’t I print it off at home?!

I was discontent, to say the least.

By this time it was about 10:30 in the morning, so with my new ticket, I still had a few hours to explore the city.  I had made friends with a girl in the hostel who’s studying in Sevilla, so we hung out for a few hours, went to the flower market, did a Rick Steves walking tour (it was awesome), then I split off to catch my train…and quite probably be put in a French prison for not having abided by French railway regulations.

Some more pics from walking around the city.

Real Dutch Tulips.

Nieuwekerk (New Church) at Dam Square (Dam Square).

Anne Frank huis.  I was thinking about going...but my interest didn't outweigh the entrance fee.

More sights and bikes.

Entrance to the Amsterdam History Museum.

I get on the train and we leave Amsterdam.  We arrive to and leave the airport.  We arrive to and leave Brussels.  We arrive to and leave Anvers.  Next stop Paris.  No one had come buy to check the tickets.  I thought, “Wow, maybe this won’t be a problem.”  It was just as I started to get my hopes up that the two guys walked onto the train and said, “Tickets please.”  Blast.

I show him the email I had received in confirmation of having purchased a ticket.  It had my name, date, train number, car number, seat number, dossier number, transaction number, price of ticket, credit card info, SSN, NIE, pet’s name, favorite color and favorite ice cream flavor.  My feeble brain thought, “there’s no way they won’t accept this as a ticket.”

Ticket Checker Guy: “Ticket please.”

Me: “Here you go.”

He checked the reference number.  No dice.  Checked it again.  No dice.

Ticket Checker Guy: “I’ll try using your name.”

Checks the name.  No dice.  Then he looks at the ticket and says, “Oh, you didn’t print off the ticket like you should have.”

I launch into rapid fire French describing my sob story about how the evil SNCF wouldn’t let me do it and blah blah blah.  (I was extremely fortunate that my French came back.)

At first he got all defensive because he thought I was blaming him, but then when he actually started listening to what I was saying, his demeanor totally changed.

“Oohh, I see.  Yes.  Well, I can guarantee you’re not the only this has happened to.  We’ve been telling the SNCF to put a ticket machine in the Amsterdam station for years, but they refuse.  It’s so stupid.”

This was encouraging: Someone in charge understood my predicament and felt sorry for me.  My spirits were lifted to new heights!  I thought, “This is great! I made the mature, adult decision to buy a new ticket, did all I could, and this guy realizes this and is going to help me out!”

He then went on to say, “So, all I need is your credit card so I can write you out a fine.”

1 comment:

  1. Ohh maaan! I got to that last sentence and my hopes were up for you, too, and then I was just like..."Oh no!!!" Crazy story, Peter. That sucks!

    I like that you said, "Nieuwekerk (New Church) at Dam Square (Dam Square)." Hahaha! It was hilarious that you translated Dam Square.