17th December


There was trouble at the automatic exits. A woman trailing a large suitcase had repeatedly been feeding her ticket into the slot and the barrier had repeatedly failed to open. She moved to the only gate operated by a human being. To this fellow sufferer in the transport system we call life she handed her ticket, and was surprised when he too did not let her pass.

‘Your ticket isn’t valid for this station, madam,’ he said.

‘Yes it is.’

‘No it isn’t. It’s valid for the next station, Arbroath.’

‘And this is Dundee,’ she said. ‘Arbroath is further on. A longer journey. I’m leaving the train seventeen miles early, not to mention reducing wear and tear on the seat fabric.’

‘Your ticket still isn’t valid here.’

‘I live here,’ she said. ‘As it happens I bought a return ticket from Arbroath to Edinburgh, but I actually live here. I’m saving the railway thirty-five miles.’

‘Madam,’ the man on the gate said, ‘you bought a discounted ticket valid from Arbroath. The discount doesn’t apply to journeys made to and from Dundee.’

‘From and to,’ she said.

‘It’s a different journey.’

‘It’s the same journey, only shorter. I got on the train later and off earlier. What’s the problem?’

‘Your ticket isn’t valid for this station,’ he said again. ‘The ticket you bought was a special offer for customers travelling from Arbroath, not for customers travelling from Dundee.’

‘I am not a customer,’ the woman said. ‘I am a passenger. I bought the best-priced ticket available but chose to get off before my final destination. It’s not as if I’m trying to get to Aberdeen on the cheap, is it? I’m not a fare-dodger.’

He gave her a challenging look.

She relaunched. ‘Now look. I can’t get back on the train – it’s gone. Are you going to physically prevent me from leaving this station?’

The man hesitated, then returned to the fray. ‘You’ll have to pay the full return fare to Dundee before you can leave.’

‘I refuse. Let me pass.’

He shook his head.

She sat down on her suitcase.

‘I have a siege mentality when it comes to this kind of thing,’ she said.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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