I have lived all over, but not since I was thirteen years old have I lived in a city with a metro service. My hazy childhood memories tell me that I can count the number of times I rode the BART train from Fremont to San Francisco on one hand. I rode the subway in New York City twice (in one day), and the Washington DC metro once.
I am not an experienced metro commuter, is my point.
Add that to the fact that I’m very new here to this English city, I’m in a country where the traffic is all on the wrong side of the road or tracks, and Brian works full time and then some at his new job leaving me to my own devices.
Put that all together and you get a nervous American who needed to go somewhere, and had only a vague idea of how to do it.
I prepared myself for this big journey to the town center by studying the maps on the metro website, and taking a recon trip out to the station where I took a few minutes to figure out how the ticket machine worked while no one was around to rush me or make me feel like a total newbie. Our apartment (I really should start calling it a flat, as you do here) is very close to our local metro station, so I didn’t have far to go.
It all looked pretty straight forward, so when the day of my lunch date with a new friend arrived I was ready. I walked to the station, bought my day pass (cheaper than two one-way tickets), waited for my train and hopped aboard.
So far, so good. I didn’t get on going the wrong direction like I did the first time in New York. I didn’t forget anything on the platform or get caught in the doors, and I found a seat facing forward where I could people watch and see how all the other commuters got on and off.
The ride was quicker than I expected, and before I knew it I was there. I got out the doors once again without getting trapped by them (why am I afraid of that?), rode the escalator up to the street level and walked around the area to get familiar with where I was. Easy!
I had a great time getting to know my new friend (thank you Facebook for hooking us up), got to know a lot about my new city, and made some notes about a few places to check out on future city-center trips.
The return trip was nearly as easy, except this time I did get on the train going the wrong way. I realized it before the train actually arrived, but decided to go anyway because it just makes a big loop. It still brought me back to my home station, and I got a little bit of a scenic tour around the coast on the way.
Now, two weeks later, I’m an expert. I’ve used the metro eight or ten times already and been as far as Sunderland, an hour away. I know where the stops are, how to change trains to the airport or the coast, how much a ticket costs for each of the zones (pretty cheap), and how long it will take me to get where I need to go.
Brian’s brother was here to visit us last week and we used the metro every single day he was here (sorry, Ronald, I hope I didn’t wear you out!). Brian and I used it to meet his co-worker for drinks in the next town (no worries about who’s driving), and I’ll use it again to pick up Brian from the airport when he comes back from his first business trip.
We only have one car which Brian takes to work every day, but I’m most definitely not stuck at home. I can just hop a metro train and go just about anywhere I want to. I love the metro!
Now I need to get the courage up to ride the bus. I figured out which one takes me to the grocery store and back, but that’s about it so far. Baby steps, my friends.