Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Saturday, September 05, 2009


An experienced traveller quickly gets used to the idiosyncracies of a new place. When a newly arrived Canadian researcher told me of her shock at being unable to open a bank account at a local bank which actually owed her money, I simply laughed (but then I did assure her that I knew it wasn't funny). When a few English colleagues failed to obtain cash from the ATMs in Waterloo, Canada, I merely shrugged my shoulders. When it took six months to obtain a health insurance number, I never gave it a thought.

But the train ticketing system is just plain hilarious. Many years ago, on my first visit to India, after several weeks of moving around by train I remember the great feeling of accomplishment when I finally understood how to find myself an appropriate seat. I have often been told that they inherited bureaucracy from the English, as indeed my country also did, but only now do I understand how true that is. Anyway, I booked and paid for a return trip to London online, and requested the tickets be sent to my home address (the alternative is to go to the station and stand in the line to use the only unbroken automatic ticket collection machine). The tickets arrived today. So how many ticket stubs am I issued for a simple return trip to London, which is only a few stops away? Eight. That's right, eight. Nine if you count for the extra one containing my address. That's because each trip has a minimum of two tickets: one ticket and one seat reservation. Then there is a ticket stub for the record of payment, a bit like a receipt but one also gets one of those. The remaining three tickets are indecipherable records of further details about both the booking and the payment.

But the tickets arrived promptly and the friendly postman handed them to me personally, bringing back distant memories from my childhood, when the same postman would come by our house every day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's designed to save money. People lose their tickets on the train, are arrested and imprisoned, then use their credit card statement to prove that they bought a ticket, are released and compensated. Instead of pay for prison expenses and conpensation for absent minded and careless people, they issue many tickets for each journey. It's a consequence of the proverb: don't put all your eggs in one basket.

September 06, 2009 3:58 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Lol, anonymous! Yes, that makes perfect sense to me.

September 06, 2009 4:19 AM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

I just got back from Southwest China for solar eclipse (went to Northwest China last year for solar eclipse), & I can report my experiences. ATM withdrawal of cash (using VISA or Mastercard) is straightforward. However, make sure you remember your PIN #!! I didn't, so I had to get on Internet (many China hotels are web equipped, which is how progressive China seems to be getting), use Skype (international) phone on my laptop to call my CC/Credit Card company in USA. However, I had a strange experience this time: I couldn't get cash from a major Chinese bank, using my CC in a personal transaction (with a teller).

Train travel in China requires buying ticket 2 weeks before departure date, can't do reservation before that. They can sell out fast, especially the soft (or hard) sleepers, the luxury way of travelling. Otherwise, you have to sit & sleep in sitting position (difficult for me) in > 12 hr trips. Foreign travelers: you need an agent, to reserve/buy tickets for you. In China, they WILL figure out a way to accomadate you. I had train conductors "clear the way" for my excess luggage (200 lbs of eclipse equipment in 3 cases). Last year, they hauled my stuff in the passenger section (!) at the LAST MINUTE. Some Geophysics students from Peking helped me haul it back to my sleeper section (3 cabs away, while hopscotching over people sprawled all over sleeping in the aisles!! Arms, heads, legs all over). This year, a small bus (Chengdu to Emei Shan) did the same for my 4 equipment cases. Anywhere else, this would have been un-allowable.

I remember being in London Gatway (International connections, not Heathrow) going to Zambia via Zimbabwe (for 2001 solar eclipse). I clearly had an excess carryon, & British Airways employee gave me a stare/stiff-lip & told me "no way". I had to buy a check-in suitcase (on the spot), & check it in. So, I have experience with British bureacracy. The same trip, 1 of my cases was held back by BSS (British Secret Service), which held me back on my trip to Northwest Zambia (near Angola). It was held hostage, just like what happened to Louise Riofrio in London a few yrs back.

"Curse of Bureacracy"

September 06, 2009 7:17 AM  

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