So Vienna. Nice and all. Mozart. Swell.
But there are always those travel memories that trump any memory of pretty statues and lovely music. And the memory that blot out Vienna happened the day we hopped the train to Budapest.
We bought our train tickets at a vending machine at the train station as was instructed by Mr. Unhelpful Information Man. But our spidey sense was on high alert so we found a real ticket agent to confirm that what we bought was correct.
Because vending machine tickets? I don’t know. Sketchy.
Yes, he assured us. The tickets were completely correct. He even handed us a schedule of departure times. Ever so helpful.
But you know what happens next, right?
You know that half way to Budapest, after I’d settled into my seat, Mr. Austrian Ticket Man informed me that these were the wrong tickets.
Oh yes they were.
First, I said with my eyes bugging out of my head as he was leering over me, “We ARE going to Budapest, right?”
In rough, gruff English, he said. “Yes, yes. But these tickets are for another town to Budapest. They are not leaving from Vienna.”
Why on EARTH would I buy a ticket in Vienna to go to Budapest from a city that isn’t Vienna? AND the vending machine had one option to Budapest. That’s the ticket I bought. And I used the English version on the vending machine so don’t give me any of that lost-in-translation crap.
I looked over at Christophe who speaks five other languages other than those required for assistance in this moment. Beside me was a lady who had three kids in the seat behind us (Mommy open this, mommy open that, OMG). And there was a quiet gentleman sitting across from her reading a book and minding his own business while this ticket issue was happening.
In my helpless English, I was trying to ask Mr. Bossy Ticket Man how we can solve this situation. We, the sinister bad ticket purchasers. And he told me that new tickets would be 60 Euros, which was separate from the 30 we already spent. 90 flippin’ Euros??!??!?! And I’m not even going to translate that into the US dollars I’m living in over here.
That’s when mom next door pushed up her sleeves and went to town on the ticket guy. She started yapping to him in German, complete with dramatic hand and arm gestures. The flap of her underarm was flying like a flag in high wind. From what I gathered, because I’m bilingual in flab flap, is that I shouldn’t have to buy another ticket in addition to this wrong ticket because it’s the fault of the train station vending machine or ticket agent or entire country of Austria or even the recession for all I know. It certainly wasn’t the fault of moi. Innocent doe-eyed moi.
The ticket agent looked at me and said, “Can you come with me, please.”
Holy fucking fuck.
He was taking me away from the pack, and especially from Mamma Wolf.
He escorted me… with all eyes following… to a quiet area between the cars where he could explain my folly in slow English. I replied back in rapid English, which I hope conveyed that I was apologetic for the mishap yet not wanting to lose the battle Mamma Wolf started fighting on my behalf. I can’t walk back to her with my tail between my legs. Basically I wanted to keep rattling on and annoying him for as long as it took for him to give up and leave me alone.
And it worked.
Applause around the world!
But, he warned, that though he was letting me go, there would be a Hungarian ticket agent on the other side of the border so I’d have to fight this battle again.
When I returned to the seat, tail wagging, I explained everything to Mamma Wolf then looked over at Christophe who was waiting impatiently for the translation.
They say the best way to learn a language is on the pillow, but I think the best way to learn a language is when you’re flipping out.
Then I waited an eternal hour for the next round with the Hungarian Ticket Dude.
And when he arrived, I handed him the tickets. He sighed, looked at me. I looked back. What? There’s nothing wrong here is there Nice Officer of Hungary.
And that’s when Mr. Reading His Book In The Corner The Whole Time put up his dukes and started laying into the Hungarian Ticket Dude in Hungarian about how I shouldn’t have to pay more and it’s the fault of the VENDING MACHINE IN VIENNA FOR CHRISSAKE.
Or at least that’s what I gathered from the jiggling flap under his jaw.
The ticket guy replied in Hungarian with, basically, “Hey bro, from here it’s only an extra 20 Euro.”
Mr. Reading His Book translated this to me in English. Apparently, we were far enough down the track that he was only going to make me pay the difference from here, which was a mere 20 Euro.
I nodded to Mr. Reading His Book. He nodded to the ticket guy. I handed over the 20. He moved on.
I turned to Christophe to translate. He shook his head no and said, “I understand. We won.”