Wednesday, January 28, 2004

"Our public transport is rubbish" is the common complaint from Brits. "Everything runs so much more smoothly on the continent". No it fucking doesn't.

I work for two seperate schools. About ten days ago I got a call from another asking if I could do some hours for them at the offices of a major car manufacturer just outside of town. I said yes, because: (a) it's larger group lessons (nine or ten students) rather than the small groups (two, three or four) that currently dominate my timetable - and larger groups are more fun; (b) because I (just) have the room on my timetable to do it, and obviously the money is welcome; and (c) because the school (or rather, cultural organisation) is the best payer in Verona and good to get in with. The only downside is that I have to negociate the Italian bus system to get there.

Before I explain what happened, let me say that I already use the bus system on Friday mornings, when I do some hours in an IT company outside town, and I've never had a problem then. I'm not an idiot.

A few days ago I went by the bus station to pick up a timetable, and check the bus number. This afternoon my boss phoned the bus company to confirm the same information.

So I arrived at the appropriate stop ten minutes before the bus was due. However the signs at the stop made no mention of number 31. Hmm. A different bus came along and I asked the driver if the bus for Colognoli ai Coli went from here. "Ah, no, he said, from Castelvecchio". This was odd news, as it's a totally different route to the one on the timetable. Still, it wasn't far, so I cycled off at top speed to try and get there in time. As I turned the corner, the number 31 was in front of me. I pedaled, and hard, keeping up with the bus all the way down the road. As it pulled up at its next stop I whizzed around to the front and stuck my arm up to indicate to the driver to wait a brief moment whilst I locked my bike up. I hopped on and asked if this was the bus for Colognoli ai Coli. "Ah, no, you want the blue bus". It's true, there are yellow buses for routes in town and blue buses for routes out of town. "Ah, ok..." I said, "..where do I get that from?". "Here", he said. Super.

I waited, but after my thoughts had had a few minutes to settle down, I became convinced this was all wrong. I got into conversation (all of this is in Italian, y'know) with a very helpful lady who said, no, the buses for Colognoli ai Coli don't go from here. She directed me back to where I had first been. Of course, by this point the scheduled time for my bus had passed. I got back to the stop and asked a man if... well, you know that bit. He perused the timetable and advised that no, they don't; "Try that stop over there". I wandered down the road, looked over the timetables there and, amongst them, was one for the 21, going to Colognoli ai Coli, at the times I was expecting. It appears that the bus number has changed.

I phoned my boss. He phoned the car company, and then phoned me back saying there was no point going today as I would be very late: lets instead start tomorrow. This, on my first day of work with him.

And that is how I find myself in an internet cafe when I should be in a classroom. I am not happy.

So: the bus number had changed. But:

1. the timetables handed out at the bus station haven't been updated to reflect this;
2. neither have the signs at the bus stops;
3. two (out of two) employees of the bus company advised me that my bus went from Castelvecchio, which is simply not true.

Now, do you really want a continental public transport system? Be careful what you wish for.

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