Trotting out of work at 4:00 PM on Christmas Eve (not a big concession from my employer, but I’ll take what I can get), I avidly hoped to avoid the dreaded Christmas Eve train delays. Alas, National Rail almost stole Christmas Eve with the help of the Victoria Station staff…

1. National Rail Gave False Hope, But No Directions

A two-minute delay could have worked in my favor; however, the display omitted the platform to which I should have sprinted, which caused a two-minute delay to snowball into a 70-minute delay… in a chilly station full of several irritable Brits and me.

2. Anti-Social Help Staff Clumped Behind the Gate

Personnel huddled behind the gate, attempting to look busy. Rather than offering help simply by being accessible approachable, they hid by the gates, making travelers funnel and queue to receive assistance. The most common advice from those that actually engaged with travelers was, “Listen to the announcements.”

3. Information Boards Pretended Nothing Was Wrong

By the time I finally departed, board information showed that trains for the past hour were delayed – except one or two that read “On Time”… But those trains were actually delayed, too. Most passengers couldn’t find their departure information on the boards.

4. One Delay Announcemen After Another… After Another!

After waiting half an hour for the next train, a 20-minute delay was a disheartening, but the 10-minute delay after that nearly vacuumed out all of my holiday spirit. And the announcement of an even later arrival started to make their “updates” seem farcical. (Though, to be fair, if the train couldn’t be on time and I received no status, I’d go berserk.)

5. The Train Service Inspired Anxiety, Camaraderie, Greed and Jealousy

Anxiety: Why is no one else waiting for this train?

Camaraderie: We’re all in this together! We’ll pull through.

Greed: Too many people are waiting for this train. I’m going to run to get a seat…

Jealousy: Oh, all those people were waiting for another service. Wish I were one of them! Two trains have departed on time to Orpington, lucky @#$!@s.

I’ll admit it. I was a right crank until I boarded and took a nap. But, at least my eagerness to head to my in-laws was borne out of love – the desire to spend time with family. If in the same dilemma next year (please, no!), I will try to remember that everyone wants to be surrounded by loved ones, and to be a little more patient.

National Rail, you didn’t manage to steal my Christmas Eve or permanently steal my holiday spirit. But you may have stolen someone else’s…

Bonus: The Train Stranded A Passenger On Board!

Luckily I exited the train right before a girl who did not have her belongings ready. Her friend tried to hold the doors open from the outside, but the doors forced shut. No conductor checked to ensure that all passengers were ready, and the girl was stranded on the train until the next stop.