On the train where no one spoke English

This train contrary to expectations was the one from Edinburgh to London which I used when returning to England from Scotland.

The first of whom I thought that he didn’t speak English was a man in his mid-forties who needed the toilet. I was moving to my carriage and was between two carriages when I met him. He was trying to open a door labelled “private” and an additional sign was attached to the door “WC -> ” guiding people in need of the restroom to the rightern side to find the next usable toilet.

I fully understand that not everyone is fluent in English and becoming fluent in English should not be expected for every visitor but I am the opinion that it is not too much to ask to learn some basic words like “hello” and “bye” in the local language and it would be lovely if visitors additionally knew words like “sorry” or “excuse me”. Whenever I travel to countries where English is not as an official/local language I try to learn those words in the local language as good as I can.

But the man in need of a toilet appeared to not know any English words so he made some sounds or noises to get my attention and then gesticulated at the closed door.

“The toilet is to the right”, I informed him. He started gesticulating at the door once again.

“go to the right if you need the toilet”, I said very slowly while pointing to the right.

He now tried to slide the door open to the rightern sight.

“No, no! The toilet is to the right”, I tried once again pointing now with both my hands to the rightern side.

He finally got me and starting moving down to the rightern side. As said before I don’t expect every visitor to become fluent in English before visiting but a nice “hello?” would have been so much nicer than just making noises and gestes.

After I found my seat in the quiet coach and started reading I was disturbed by another passenger in the quiet coach who  had a lively phone conversation in a foreign language. Ironically his seat was right under the “Quiet coach”-sign.

As I was thirsty and didn’t fancy listening to a phone conversation I didn’t understand I moved towards the coach containing the onboard bar.

She attempted to pay by card but despite trying twice the payment didn’t go through, so she gave the female employee another card to pay with. Which didn’t go through either despite multiple attempts. To the customer’s credit: she was capable of expressing in English that she was the opinion that it was the machine’s fault and not the cards’ fault as she thought it impossible that both her cards were damaged or didn’t work.

So the customer wondered whether she could pay in euros which the lady behind the counter confirmed but stated that she must pay in banknotes and euro-coins are not accepted. The customer repeated her question about the acceptability of the euro. the employee repeated her answer slowly which again made the customer repeat her question. Standing right behind the customer I thought I could attempt to reword the catering employee’s answer.

“Euros are okay. But you must use paper money, no metal accepted.”

Now the customer looked from the catering lady to me and back. The employee had another idea of explaining or demonstrating her answer; she grabbed a piece of paper while slowly stating that she was happy with paper money but not euro-coins. When saying paper money she was gesticulating with the piece of paper in her hand.

In the mean time the queue of waiting customers behind me was about six or seven people. One of them was listening to music via his head phones and it was the theme of Beverly Hills Cop which filled the gaps between people speaking.

While the customer was still unsure of what has been said another queuing person who judging by his accent was from London or surroundings tried explaining it by substituting the word “banknote” by the North-American term “bill”. No success.

When the customer finally understood that only Euro-banknotes were accepted she got a 50 Euro-banknote out of her purse and put it on the table.

The muffled sound of the Beverly Hills Cop theme was audible for a brief moment.

“50 Euro?! I don’t have enough change to give out to 50 Euro.”, the woman behind the counter pointed out and asked her whether she was travelling on her own. If not the customer could consider asking her travel company for British coins.

The customer agreed to fetch change from one of her travel companions.

The next bummer came when the catering woman explained that she can’t serve the next customer until she finished the previous transaction. The trolley service (which was being prepared but hadn’t started yet) had to begin in the first coach and not right in the middle of the train where the bar was located. So there was no way of taking that shortcut either.

But fortunately the catering lady was consenting to taking my order while the other customer was still fetching money and also very fortunately Scottish banknotes were accepted aboard the train (otherwise we would have had to put the card machine to the test by trying to debit my card).

Can you imagine how relived everyone was when the previous customer finally returned with some Pound-coins?

With a drink in my hand I made my back to my seat in the quiet coach where no phone conversations were held and I had the chance of continue to read my book.

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About Kim Karlstein

Member of the gay conspiracy in one of the regional offices in the UK. The conspiracy you lately constantly heard about. Other than plotting how to take over world I have fairly normal hobbies. My gravatar is taken with thanks from wikimedia commons.
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