Saturday, 6 August 2011

The pros and cons of Twitter

Twitter can be great, but today was a day when perhaps I should only have looked at my twitter stream in the morning.

Today was the day we were taking Hannah and Ethan to stay with their aunt and uncle in Surrey.

This morning, as every morning, I turned my phone on to see what was happening in the Twitterverse and saw a handy little bit of information tweeted by @M25_Traffic:


I did some investigating and realised there was no easy way to get through the traffic caused by this closure.  We could have driven through London but I'm sure too many other people would have had that thought so we started to consider alternatives.  Friends (who clearly don't know me well) suggested taking the helicopter but Ethan suggested the train.

I had a look and the journey wasn't too long and the fare wasn't unreasonable.  I wanted to check the online fare would be the same as a fare bought in the station so called National Express and spoke to someone in an Indian call centre who confirmed it would be.  The Indian call centre features further on in the story but probably deserves a blog in its own right.

We drove to the station, parked in the £3.90 car park and bought our train tickets.  The earlier research into fares paid off as I was able to tell the person at the ticket desk that the first fare he quoted was too high and that there was a cheaper alternative.

No sooner had we made it to the right platform it became clear that we weren't going to be able to travel from Shenfield.  There had been a fatality at Brentwood and the location of the fatality was now a crime scene and no trains would be passing through.

This was confirmed by @NRE_NXEA:


We assessed our options and someone at the station suggested driving to West Horndon and catching a train from on the C2C line.

I went back to the ticket desk and asked whether we should get a refund on our tickets and start again, or whether the tickets we had bought would be valid on the C2C line.  I was told that a refund wasn't necessary and our tickets would be valid.

We realised the £3.90 car parking charge wouldn't be refundable which seemed wrong but got in the car and made our way to West Horndon.  En route I called National Express and had the most frustrating conversation with a woman in the same Indian call centre.  I wanted to know whether West Horndon was the most sensible alternative to Shenfield.  She failed to listen and comprehend the situation and she clearly had no idea about the geography of Essex and where Shenfield was in relation to anywhere.  It was when she finally suggested the best alternative was Brentwood (remember, the crime scene, the location of the fatality, all of which had been explained earlier in the call) that I nearly lost my patience.

At West Horndon, forking out more for another car park, we made it onto the right train, and platform.

We made our way with children and umpteen bags (containing amongst other things a Nintendo Wii and two child car seats) to Surrey and arrived in time for lunch.  And then it was time to say goodbye to the children and head back home.

As we travelled back towards Waterloo I checked my Twitter feed and saw this:


This worried me.  We had been told our tickets would be valid on C2C but this tweet said something different.  Our car was parked at a C2C station.  It seemed we had three choices: buy tickets back to West Horndon and the car, travel back to Shenfield and get a taxi to West Horndon to collect the car, or challenge the ticket validity change.

I tweeted back:


Somehow @nationalrailenq had been following events and decided to pitch in with their view


But their response was very similar @NRE_NXEA:


Help how exactly?:


And so it went on.  Now if I hadn't seen the tweet about tickets no longer being accepted on C2C services I would have been none the wiser.  We would have travelled back assuming our tickets were valid and we would have been fine.  So I pretended I hadn't seen the tweet, whilst continuing my dialogue with @NRE_NXEA on Twitter because I could, and it provided amusement for the return journey.

Our tickets weren't challenged, but I did have the evil notion that I should send a tweet like this:



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