How to miss and how to catch a train

Missing a train

* Go the beach with a friend. Ignore her suggestion of getting a train ticket early, blithely assuring her you can but it later.
* Go the airport to see her off. Wait a little longer than normal because of her visa troubles.
* Use a cash machine to secure some funds. Smile at the convenience.
* Watch in dismay as the cash machine dispenses three 100 rouble notes instead of three 1,000 rouble notes.
* Shake head in disbelief as the woman at the desk near the cash machine says “you are not the first” and directs you somewhere else, the woman at the place you were sent makes various phone calls and then explains that the bank says nothing can be done till Monday, you make numerous phone calls to be passed from person to person and eventually end up back at the first place again, you finally get hold of someone only to find the phone card runs out of credit (it starts when you dial, regardless of whether your call is successful or not), and you buy another phone card and call back and she tells you that it is useless, the only option (since you are leaving in three hours) being to dispute the transaction with your bank.
* Hurry back to town for the train at 1845. But too late.
* Go to the internet place for the first time in a week. Be alarmed at the number of emails. Head back to the station to see about a train to Moscow.
* Discover by chance a bus stop near the train station directly to the airport that could have got you back in time for the 1845.
* Examine the timetable more carefully to find out that the 1845 train actually leaves at 2045. In half an hour.
* Run to the ticket office but give up on the queue when it becomes clear that there is no way to get a ticket in time.
* Find out a few minutes later that there are no tickets available on that train anyway.
* Buy a ticket to Moscow.

Catching a train

* Go to the ticket office at 7am.
* Ask the ticket seller which is best, and follow her advice.
* Pay the requested sum.
* Turn up at the train station 2 hours early, enough time to buy provisions for the trip even with long queues.
* Find the platform and get on the train 30 minutes before departure. Be especially overjoyed to find that your carriage is the first on the platform (saving yourself a long walk).
* Wait. Listen to the pretty music they play on departure of a special train.
* Watch with a self-satisfied smile as the train pulls out of the station.

I never thought I would travel on the ‘Rossiya’ – the flagship train from Moscow to Vladivostok. It is fundamentally different from all other Russian trains I have been on. Well-painted in red, white and blue, clean, comfortable, quiet, air-conditioned. It has a better class of passengers as well. My fellow compartmenters just refused to buy a bottle of water because it was the wrong brand. ‘That is not mineral water’. Sniff. Even the cups have monograms.

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