Let me tell you a story about missing the last horse out of dodge (aka the anatomy of missing the last Eurostar out of Amsterdam on a cold Wednesday night)
Those who know me, will testify that I am a person that more likely than not will cut things fine when it comes to timing.
This can mean I turn up a little late to things but in my defence it’s often because I am over-optimistic on how much I can cram into a day and because more often than not, the consequences are manageable.
Unfortunately Wednesday this week was not one of those times…
I had come to Amsterdam from London on Tuesday to spend 2 days with a new client running leadership training.
It was the most amazing session as we discussed how to lead dynamically, choosing intentional rather than instinctive actions, making sure they are focused on the right problems and teaching them how to influence with impact.
The day wasn’t just a whole bunch of theory, it was interactive, full of discussion and roleplays putting participants into real situations that they found challenging.
It was so jam packed that, even though we had started incredibly early and taken a minimal lunch, by 5:30pm we were still going. That’s fine I thought because my train back to London wasn’t until 6:39 and the station was 10 minutes away by metro so we’re all good.
How wrong I was…
5:45: Having waved all the participants goodbye (staying until the very end to answer every question they had and to help the administrator tidy the room), I then set off for Amsterdam Central Station with a jog in my step.
I was carrying 2 bags (one with my overnight stuff and the other with all the course material) so even though the metro station was 5 mins away it was tough and I was sweating profusely.
“Not to worry”, I thought, “Just jump on the metro and you can cool down there”
5:50: That would be great but the metro had delays and it would be about 8 minutes before the next one — great for my cooling off time, not so great for catching my Eurostar.
5:58: I finally force my way onto a metro carriage; considering the delay and the fact this is rush hour, this is no easy feat.
6:08: I’m getting nervous now as the metro pulls into Central Station. “It’s ok”, I tell myself, “as I have a business ticket it says they will let me on up to 20 minutes before departure.”
6:10: My electronic ticket doesn’t seem to want to play nice with the Central Station ticket barrier so I have to find a ticket inspector to let me through.
6:14: I realise my platform is the furthest away so I start sprinting.
6:17 I can see the train, this is perfect, it’s there in all it’s glory and there’s even a few people still waiting to board. I can not believe my luck!
6:18: Joy turns to misery as I discover that these people are not in fact waiting to board; they are instead being refused boarding for turning up late. Many of them are irate and in all the confusion I struggle to be able to get on the train.
It appears they (there are 8 of them) are travelling in standard class and their ticket says they need to turn up 40 mins before departure.
I want to scream at them to get out of the way as my ticket still allows me to board but a) this seems incredibly elitist and b) it’s irrelevant because these people are too busy talking to the one customer service agent that they do not acknowledge me.
6:21: It is made clear that none of us will be allowed to board.
6:22: It is repeated that none of us will be allowed to board.
6:23: The conversation between one of the refused boarding passengers and the service agent gets very heated.
6:24: 2 security guards are called for to speak with the, now, apoplectic passenger
6:25: I mentally acknowledge that I will not be able to get on the Eurostar and my brain begins to go into contingency planning…
Survival of the fittest
At that point in time, a fascinating transition began; where as up to that moment I had been in complete solidarity with the other 8 passengers, bemused and irritated that we couldn’t board, those same comrades quickly became competitors.
For I had fired up a flight comparison website and realised that there were 2 remaining flights back to London that evening that had space, one to London Gatwick at 9:20 pm and one to London Luton at 9:05 pm (for non Londoners, Luton isn’t actually in London so is a right pain).
The London Gatwick flight was the one I was targeting and I was guessing it didn’t have many seats left — I definitely didn’t want to have to pay more than was necessary.
Quick as a flash, whilst arguments raged around me I booked a seat.
I then saw out the remaining minutes until the Eurostar I was meant to be on rolled off into the distance without me on it. Bye, bye 4 hour journey with dinner, comfy seats, a table to work on and unlimited drinks.
6:40: Time to head to the airport…
I now had time on my hands but I definitely didn’t want to miss this last transport back home (part of me would have loved to stay the night but I had an 8am client session back in London the next day so needed to be back).
Fortunately the airport was not far and I soon made it there, navigating the immigration and security queues (I wish I’d known that they have those amazing new scanners that mean you can have more than 100ml of liquids and don’t need to take anything out of your bag — that way I wouldn’t have necked the 3 bottles of water I had on me).
Having navigated that all fairly harmlessly I was now faced with the opposite challenge — having excessive time on my hands.
I found a coffee shop, bought a sandwich and settled in to plough through 2 days worth of emails (that and have 2 enormous wees to extricate the 3 litres of water I had previously drunk).
The time flew by and I was soon on the plane, crammed into a tiny seat between 2 big blokes [I wish I had got a photo].
In these circumstances in particular I was relieved that the flight took but 45 mins and using my airport craft, I was able to scamper through the terminal in record time.
Even better, a train into central London was pretty much waiting for me on cue. “My luck is definitely turning.”
It was the same fortune when I moved onto the tube and, upon exiting after a few stops, it was a simple 10 minute walk to get home.
I walked through my front door just before midnight; ironically pretty much the same sort of time I would have got back had I actually got the Eurostar.
The main difference being though that I am several hundred pounds poorer and now have to appeal for a refund from Eurostar (a process I am not assuming will be easy).
There you go! Never a dull moment in the life of a small business owner. At least, I got a great story/blog out of it and I’d love to tell you that this will never happen again…
But, that’s not how I roll; I would pretty much always prefer to spend more time with people helping them out and suffer the discomfort myself then be the person who cuts and run.
In my mind, these things happen and no real harm done. After all, I’m still glowing from the memory of the fantastic workshop and the amazing feedback I have received since.
Whether you are a late or an early person; I hope you too look positively at all the things that you could easily see as frustrating, for life is too short…
Faris is the CEO and Founder of Shiageto Consulting, an innovative consultancy that helps firms and individuals sharpen their effectiveness.
Success = IQ x EQ x FQ