I blame it on the time. Actually, I blame it on the time of day. And the lack of sleep. And the fact that I felt a little fraught at the time.
I am not generally inept at public transport. I do not usually have difficulty discerning sign boards and timetables. A very long time ago I lived in East Africa, and managed to negotiate the public transport system there. On one notable occasion I shared my seat with a live chicken, while a panic stricken goat was hoisted past my window and onto the roof of the bus upon which I sat. When it comes to transportation, I have runs on the board.
I was, on those occasions, travelling alone.
Last week, the junior recipe testers and I had the opportunity to travel to the most senior recipe testers' (AKA Mum & Dad's) farm. By train. The train left Central Station at 12.19pm, a perfectly decent time to travel. It was when I went to book the tickets I made the horrifying discovery that there were no seats left on the train.
The juniors were dismayed. There were tears. And gnashing of teeth. The only alternative was a train leaving Central at 7.04 AM. This meant that we had to be at the bus stop near home at 5.30. AM. The juniors were not the least deterred. And so the senior recipe tester dropped the four of us, and our four wheelie suitcases, at the nearest bus stop, at a time at which is it both very dark and very cold.
We travelled to Wynyard on the bus with little incident. During that first leg, I felt it incumbent upon me to educate the juniors about commuters. They are travelling to work, I instructed. They are busy, and in a hurry, and won't be pleased if they trip over a Spiderman wheelie bag. And if you cannot swipe your Opal card very quickly at the turnstile... I will have to do it for you.
The juniors dutifully watched out for commuters, stayed close, didn't get lost, and got remarkably adept at swiping efficiently. Even those who aren't tall enough to be able to see the touch pad.
We then struck a small hitch at Wynyard train station. The trouble with being responsible for small children, is that you not only have to convince yourself you are capable of caring for them, you may, on occasion, be called upon to convince random members of the public too. But when your holiday travels start well before dawn, I think you could perhaps be cut a little slack if you occasionally sound like a complete lunatic.
"I'm looking for platform 2, please," I enquired of a uniformed man.
"There isn't a platform 2," came the reply.
"What about the train to Epping, leaving from Platform 2?"
"The train to Epping leaves from platform 4. Do you want to go to Epping?"
"Where are you going?"
"I need to get to the city."
Given that we were in fact standing in a city train station, I should not have been surprised when the gentleman raised his eyebrows.
"The next city circle train leaves from platform 5."
"Doesn't the train to Epping leave in about 2 minutes?"
"I thought you weren't going to Epping. Where do you want to go?"
"Central. But I thought the Epping train would be quicker."
There was a pause, while he considered me and my three progeny and their significant suitcases for a journey of only two stops. "Where are you actually going?"
At this point I believe the gentleman was making mental notes. He noted what the junior recipe testers were wearing. He memorised what I was wearing... all things he would need later to explain to some authority, either law enforcement or child protection, about the missing passenger who, together with her three charges, had not the first clue about where she was going.
I'm not sure of the final destination of the train we eventually got on. Fortunately for me, it stopped at Central.