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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

I'm in Brum

I got to the ferry terminal before 9:00AM on Sunday. The check-in supervisor agreed to check in my dog then. She gave me a hard time about the dog having two chips and her rabies certification. At the time, I was alarmed that there might be an issue with getting on the boat, but I think the woman was just annoyed and wanted to give me a hard time.

I was super, super, super grateful. I expected to be told no or to have to pay a high last-minute fare, but neither of those things happened. Apparently, I had a very flexible ticket. So, it was with great joy that I learned I could get on the boat and wouldn't have to buy a new ticket. Huzzah.

Checking in to the ferry means biking up to the check in booth where you present your travel documents and receive a cabin key. If you have a dog, they have a chip reader you must use. Then you bike up to the Dutch border patrol who inspect your passport and give you an exit stamp. The agent frowned at my passport and turned to her coworker and explained in Dutch that the picture looked like me, but the passport seemed to say I was a woman. There was obviously some kind of problem! She turned to me. "I'm transsexual." I said in English. She asked if I had any documentation proving that. I offered to show her my testosterone ampoules. "You must have this problem with your passport a lot." she said. Actually, a panhandler had called me "mevrouw" in the train station that morning. The agent looked shocked. How could anybody think that?! She let me on the boat. "Have a good trip, sir!"

One advantage of biking onto a ferry is that immigration at Harwich is not nearly as awful as immigration at the airport. I think this is partly because there are not conveniently located holding pens. If detaining somebody is really easy, then they're more likely to do it. If it requires leaving your booth, finding a supervisor, etc etc etc, well, it's too much trouble. I was barely hassled at all. Alas, the gender marker on my passport was not any kind of an issue.

But the problem with biking onto ferries is that they're really meant for cars. Especially the daytime ferries. I was the only biker at all. I biked over to the train station to discover that no trains were running. I talked to somebody. "What train were you planning on catching?" she asked. Um. I wouldn't think it would be making too much of an assumption that you could just get off one of the twice daily ferries and then get on a train at the attached train station. That's just crazy talk! Finally a bus came by and refused to take me unless I folded everything. He came back for me an hour later. I've now been all over East Anglia by bus. It's lovely country. Narrow country roads. Rolling farmland. Pretty little pubs. Bed and breakfasts. We went from tiny shut-down rail station to tiny shut-down rail station where nobody got on or off the bus.

We finally rolled in to a working station. I asked for an itinerary from the agent. "You can't get there tonight." he said. I could get as far as London, which my ticket specifically didn't cover. Note to travellers: do not buy tickets between Brum and Harwich which say "not London" for the route, as such a route does not exist. The agent said I couldn't go that way. I whined. He relented.

I called Paula and explained my predicament. She was not exactly thrilled. She had to go to work in the morning. I whined. She relented. It was a warm night at midnight, when I stood ringing her doorbell. I pondered pitching a tent on the grass in her courtyard. Presumably, the neighbors would complain. I kept ringing the doorbell. Mine wouldn't wake me up either, actually. But hers finally did and she let me in.

The next morning, after peak hours on the train had passed, I biked across London to the cheaper station to Brum. My ticket still said "not London" and as I was on the second day of using it, I was not entirely sure about it. The station agent didn't want to let me past the fare gates. I whined. He relented. Note to travellers: when facing disasters in the UK, try whining.

I called Eric, who had my keys. He was at school. So after my train came in, I biked to school from the train station. Brum is hilly once you get off the canal path. Also, all my stuff for gigging + bike touring stuff + dog. I got to school and drank some water and got my keys and then went home where I put on clean clothes. I desperately wanted a shower after sweating so much, but Nicole's train (from the airport where she arrived that same morning) was past due. I just wanted to wear socks that hadn't been worn for three days previous.

Nicole was not pleased at my lateness, but I whined and she relented. It took me voer 24 hours to get home. I've flown inter nationally and made train connections, etc and been home faster. Every time I try to cross the UK, something goes horribly wrong or near wrong. Also, biking down Oxford street really sucks.

People I would like to thank: Kendra for letting me sleep on her futon unexpectedly (and lending me a SIM card), Paula for letting me sleep at her apartment unexpectedly, Eric for being around with my keys.

2 comments:

Polly Moller said...

Wow. I'm dizzy & exhausted just reading your account!

Adam said...

Congrats on making it back. Good to know whining is effective.