A difficult trip

Birmingham Cathedral

When a courier run goes well, it’s brilliant; when it goes awry, it’s something else again.

Yesterday, it was arranged that we were going to take a package to an address in Birmingham. The only uncertainty was when the package would finally be ready. This cliff-hanging is typical of the firm but let’s not be critical because it’s the reason why we are asked to do courier runs! Completion was nominally set for 11am.

I turned up at Tigger’s workplace around 11:00 but there was as yet no sign of the package. Tigger continued working while I sat in the staff canteen and read my book on Descartes. Midday arrived and there was still no sign of the package. Tigger tentatively booked a cab for 1:30 and we went off for our traditional Friday omelette at the Court Cafe.

At about 1:15, the package was finally pronounced ready. We had to wait 15 minutes for the cab and then we were off! The cab took us to Euston Station where we joined the queue for tickets and just managed to get about the 2:10 train. Everything was going fine and we should be able to deliver the package by the 5 pm deadline with ease.

“The best laid plans of mice and men…”

Our Virgin train rushed merrily through the countryside until we were in the region of Milton Keynes and then it stopped. Signals, we thought and waited patiently. Then we waited some more. And still more. An apologetic train manager made an announcement: according to him “there was a fault in trackside equipment” which would delay our journey. “At the moment I have no information as to when we shall be able to continue the journey”. Uh-oh.

Kings Head Clock

Now, of course, no one can be blamed for failing to do a job in the face of force majeure but it is galling, to say the least. Tigger kept in touch with base but there was nothing anyone could do. We had to wait it out.

Eventually, the train began to move again, though at reduced speed. We were told we were running 1 hour and 25 minutes late, though this delay would increase because of our present slow running. By Rugby, however, they had managed to reduce the delay to 90 minutes but that’s how it stayed. There was not possible for us to get the package to its destination by the 5 pm deadline.

Apprised of this, base got in touch with the clients who accepted an electronic copy of the tender to beat the deadline, on condition that the hard copy (which we were carrying) was duly delivered. We were relieved. We could go ahead and complete the job instead of returning straight home with our tails between our legs.

Our problems were not over, however…

We arrived at Birmingham and rushed for a cab. We gave the address: 116 Cally Road (that’s a fictitious address). The taxi driver seemed puzzled but set off in search of Cally Road. This is a very long road, somewhat away from the centre, and lined with large buildings – office blacks, blocks of flats, business premises, etc. – each individually numbered, even numbers on the left and odd numbers on the right, so that just a few numbers added up to quite a distance.

The driver was unable to find number 116. We went too far, turned into a side street and waited for what seemed ages to be able to emerge again onto the main road. We could see 114 but not 116. In the end, we paid off the taxi, sure that 116 must be next to 114. We explored, we asked people, but could not find 116.

With an increasing sense of unreality, we phoned base. We were told that the team producing the tender had gone home but had said the address had been given them by the clients. What were we to do? In the end our contact at base looked up the postcode on the Internet and found that the number of the building was 113, not 116. The clients apparently don’t know their own address.

You might think that 113 would be more or less opposite 116 but, if so, you would be wrong. 113 was about half a mile back along the way the taxi had brought us. Bravely, we set out on foot. When we arrived at our destination, we found the place locked up. We had been told they were waiting for us but there was no sign of any such welcome. Tigger rang the doorbell: no response. How frustrating it was to have got so far only to find we could not deliver the package! Tigger phoned base and I went for a wander around the building.

Through a window I saw a man working at a desk, turned sideways to me. I gesticulated and eventually he saw me. It was impossible to talk through the double glazed window but fortunately he got up and moved in the direction of the door. Eventually, the door opened and a quizzical face peered out at us.

We explained that we had come to deliver a tender, that we were late but that we had been told they would accept it. From his expression, he obviously knew nothing of this.

“OK,” he said, “Come in.” He led us inside and enquired “Would you like a receipt?” We certainly would.

View from the train

So we had succeeded in the end, despite the hindrances along the way. As we walked down the road, I felt slightly deflated when I should have been feeling pleased with a job well done. Never mind, it was time to think about getting home but first, we thought we should have a meal as the journey back was likely to be as long and tiresome as the journey to get here. We took a bus to town.

In the end we plumped for a branch of Bella Italia and then it was time to think about taking the train home. I rang National Rail enquiries and my loopset worked very well. In a noisy city, it is good to hear the phone in both ears. We were advised to go back Snowhill to Marylebone, as there were still problems on the Euston line. This is what we did, pulling into Marylebone at 10:35.

It had been a long day, full of frustration, but we had succeeded, after a fashion at least. The more runs you do, the more likely it becomes that you will run into problems. At least we could keep in touch with base (something courier firms are unlikely to do) and try to work around problems.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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3 Responses to A difficult trip

  1. athinkingman says:

    When travelling in a train that isn’t going anywhere, one is almost powerless. I find it really interesting to watch how people react in those situations. I remember once one gentleman getting extremely angry, threatening to sue, and trying to get other passengers to agree to get off the train with him and walk to the nearest taxi and share a fare to the destination. It is much calmer if you accept your relative powerlessness and the fact that others are probably doing whatever they can to redeem the situation.

    Your journey did sound frustrating and exhausting, but you seemed to achieve it with some success and without causing yourself any unnecessary stress.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    On one hand, there was nothing to be done as we weren’t even at a station and therefore could not get out and try another means of transport; on the other, we were in touch with base, letting them know the situation and giving them the chance to arrange something with the recipient. Thus we remained calm, as did most of the passengers in our carriage. There were a few agitated phone calls and that was all.

    On the minus side, it was annoying because we value Tigger’s reputation for reliability and getting the job done on time (not always the case with courier firms).

    We knew, however, that something would eventually go wrong and thus accepted it. Late completion of the work didn’t help: if they had finished it earlier we could have left earlier and possibly have beaten the delay.

    Looking on the bright side, all’s well that ends well and I think Tigger’s reputation emerges unscathed.

  3. Pingback: Yorkshire, ho! « SilverTiger

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