I have just had the single most stressful experience of my life. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I totally agree. That IS a bold statement (apparently I’ve moved on from overusing parentheses to capitalising words for emphasis... well... maybe.) The last three months haven’t exactly been smooth sailing. And tonight’s experience certainly wasn’t anywhere near the worst thing to happen to me, in fact it wasn’t bad at all. Right now I’m actually feeling like, after all the bad luck I’ve had in Europe; karma is finally giving back in a good way. But I could have done without the extra stress; I think I’m getting a stomach ulcer.
OK, so you all know about my money troubles of late and my struggle to find a cheapish mode of transport to Frankfurt. I was ecstatic when I found the 45euro bus. Now, when I booked the bus yesterday, there was an option to pay by credit card over the computer, or some-other-option-in-German-that-I-didn’t-understand-but-assumed-to-be-pay-upon-boarding. As it is, I don’t have a credit card. I will have to get one, but it’s probably good I didn’t because it would have been stolen along with the rest of my wallet’s contents and some Sudanese Starbucks employee would be enjoying themselves quite literally at my expense (and there I go being racist. Don’t take me seriously when I stereotype. People who’ve been to Paris SHOULD hopefully find that amusing and relevant). Aaaaaanyway, I chose the other option, and was given a reference number. On the page it said something in German that I wasn’t quite sure of, but I picked out “credit card payments” “get ticket” and “present ticket” or something along those lines and guessed it to mean that I could still change my mind and pay by credit card and print off the ticket to hand over upon boarding the bus. Of course, I COULD have used an online translator, just to double check that it DID say that and not something relevant to non-credit card holders like myself. I COULD have done that indeed. But I didn’t. Mistake Number One.
Tonight, I headed to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (the central station) to find my bus stop. Earlier today I’d been at the HBF and considered searching for my bus stop. I didn’t. I figured if I left my hostel in Altona at 9pm, I’d get to HBF by 9:30pm, giving me an entire hour to find the bus stop. That was Mistake Number 2. I did get to HBF at 9:30pm and found the bus stops right out front of the station. The instructions said that my bus would come to stop 4, 5 or 6, which I found. Having time to spare, I went to Maccas for a hot chocolate. I came back shortly after 10, because I wanted plenty of time to make sure I was in the right place. I wandered up and down, searching for something that would indicate that I WAS in fact in the right place to catch my bus. I saw no indication of my bus company’s existence. I checked the electronic timetable, and there was no mention of my bus. This didn’t REALLY worry me though (everything worries me slightly, so it did a bit) because I figured that maybe the timetable only showed city buses. Mistake Number 3
I was expecting my bus to appear about 10min before the leaving time of 10:35pm. At 10:18pm I started to anticipate the bus coming around the corner. I was worried that I was in the wrong place, but nothing more than my general paranoia that I’m fucking something up, because I usually do. At 10:28pm I began to actually worry. A few minutes later, I approximate the time to have been about 10:32pm, I decided to ask the nearest person if this WAS, in fact, the only central bus stop. She said no, the main one is around the corner, only two buses come here.
Not knowing whether I was doing the right thing by leaving, I scuttled to the end of the street, walked/jogged as fast as possible across roads in front of moving traffic and found the REAL central bus station. I got to stop 16 and broke into a run, which is no easy feat when you’ve got a suitcase with a handbag and laundry bag attached, as well as a camera and a backpack to drag in your wake. An old man laughed at me. I was almost crying. I knew I was cutting it very fine and any second I’d see my bus pulling away from the curb, destined to reach Frankfurt without me. My nose was running like a tap, my throat was burning from the cold air, my heart was thumping from my complete lack of endurance. I was scared. All I could think was “I’m going to miss my bus and not have enough money for the train. I’ll have to sell my body or else be stranded in Hamburg indefinitely.” Suddenly, I saw my bus. It was still there. I ran/scuttled/crab walked even faster. I reached the bus. The door was shut, the driver nowhere to be seen. After what seemed like an eternity he appeared and opened the door. I hurriedly muttered something like “imsosorryiwasathewrongbusstopfrankfurtreferencenumber.” He asked calmly if i had a ticket. I said no, i have a reference number. He looked at me in confusion. This made me panic a little more. Was this the right bus? He asked where I was going, I told him Frankfurt. Recognition passed over his face. A good sign, indeed. He showed me a list of names. My name was not on the list. He told me i would have to buy a ticket from the ticket office. He wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get this bus.
I was prepared to throw money, or maybe myself, at the ticket office people and take the closest thing to a bus ticket to Frankfurt that they could give me; as long as I could get this very bus. Then the bus driver ran over to peer in, and it dawned on him the ticket office was shut. This, surprisingly, was a good thing. He told me I could get on the bus and pay him at the break. Hurriedly, we got my suitcase into the luggage holder and I climbed on, choking on air and relief and trying to hide the copious amounts of snot escaping from my nose.
I now realise that I should ALWAYS translate things just in case, because looking back, I'm fairly certain it actually said "get your ticket printed at the ticket office using your reference number, then hand your ticket in upon boarding" or something along those lines. Woops. But, here i am, an hour later, on the bus, still feeling sick from physical exertion and panic, heading to Frankfurt. Now I can only hope it really is the right bus, and I’m heading to the right Frankfurt.
“I got this guys... we need to go to Berlin?”
“Ah Berlin, I know it well, I stabbed a woman in a bar in Berlin!”
“What did he say?”
“He said he’s going to Berlin!”
“Berlin! I will drive this bus off a cliff before I go back to Berlin.”
(I apologise if I've misquoted 'Eurotrip' somewhat)