Alack, alas, my oyster card is… lost.
This is a trauma up there with the day my third – not my first, but my third basil plant, the one I thought was doing really well, finally died. This is a figurative limb cut off, this is my pass to the whole of London, gone. And it’s not just the fact that I’ve lost my oyster card, the ticket with which I travel the city. It’s my oyster card that I’ve had for seven years. It’s the oyster card that has in its holder, three of my 16-25 Railcards, complete with mugshot of yours truly looking, as my Mum so tactfully put it, either like a romantic heroine or a heroin addict. It’s the oyster card that took me from theatre to home, theatre to home, every day for the best part of two years for £1.30 after Youth Railcard discount, the oyster card that I’d go running with – nothing else but oyster card, door keys and inhaler – in full confidence that if I got knackered there’d be a bus near by, and enough credit on my card to get me home, somehow. It’s the oyster card with the holder that wasn’t actually disintegrating and held together with cellotape, and if you’ve travelled much in London, you know there are only three kinds of oyster card holders… those that are collapsing, those that are by IKEA, and those that promote Mastercard. To find a pure, simple, London Underground oystercard holder that is none of the above, was a miracle, its fruit now alas lost somewhere on the walk to Angel, Islington through a hole in my trouser pocket.
I phoned transport for London, and the woman said ‘we’re sending you a new one’. ‘Really,’ I asked. ‘I could just go get a new one from the station.’ ‘No,’ she replied, ‘we’re sending you a new one with your old balance on it.’ Amazing! I thought. My £7.20 of credit is saved! Then the email arrived… yes, they’re sending me an oyster card with £7.20 on it… but after a £10 administration fee. I tell myself that this is okay. That if I’d gone to the station and just bought a new oyster card, I’d be £5 out of pocket, as well as the £7.20 I’ve lost. Now I’m only £10 out of pocket, not £15, but the price, is having to wait for my oyster card. Five working days, the lady said… now, for four of these days I can still, just about, get away with walking everywhere, but on the fourth day, that fiver I’ve saved on transport will vanish instantly, immediately when I try to catch a train to Tulse Hill. The tension is mounting; have I been robbed my Transport for London, tricking me into waiting in oyster-cardless hope?
I attempted to get a replacement railcard as well, but my railcard account informed me that my application was ‘incomplete’. ‘Incomplete?’ I wailed at the online helpdesk. ‘£28, several hundred journeys and a fully functional card later, how can it be incomplete?’ ‘Please log back in,’ the helpdesk replied, ‘and try again.’
So now I wait.
And walk everywhere.
Counting down the moments until sheer geographical necessity forces me to use my oyster card. £1.30, a simple journey with railcard discount… £1.90 without, so now, we wait for the railcard. £4 to make that journey without an oyster card at all. The clock is ticking, and in the meanwhile, I feel naked, trapped and forlorn without the oyster card in my life…