Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ticket To Ride

This is another short story.

Ticket To Ride

Thursday was an uneventful day when it started and as with every day, the question can be asked as to whether it would remain that way.

Happily married to a marketing industry employed wife, Mr Ashley Protherow lived in one of the “better” suburbs in a “significant” house with a mortgage to match. He was the bureaucrat ultimately responsible for the Brisbane City Council bus service. His career had been kind to him: it had delivered to him his current very comfortable job, which allowed him to assist his wife in the care of their home and their two primary-school-aged children. It also enabled him to manage his Diabetes condition without too much drama.  Diabetes did not have to be a significant impediment to his life, if managed properly and if he was fortunate enough to stay on the happy side of the luck divide, it need not be fatal. One of the management mechanisms Mr Protherow put in place for his condition was to have a backup stock of insulin in the refrigerator in the games room. Another was to give his wife something akin to an emergency supply of glucose for him, just in case the supply he has readily at his disposal becomes depleted.

As that Thursday unfolded Mr Protherow and his wife prepared their children for school and themselves for work. His wife told him that she and the children would be attending a function at Aspley after school and into the early evening that day.  He said he had to remember to get more insulin because his stocks were uncomfortably low. Shortly after that conversation ended Mr Protherow drove the work vehicle to the office in the city and his wife drove the children to school and then herself to work.

Presiding over the expenditure of millions of dollars redeveloping part of the city centre so as to create a bus station at King George Square in an attempt to make public transport more attractive for the citizens of the city was something of which Mr Protherow was proud. However not everyone in the community necessarily shared his vision. Daniel Soames found that the redevelopment gave him a comparative education he perhaps could have done without. Still he was grateful for the enrichment his life now enjoyed as a result of being able to compare the bus service his locale enjoyed with that servicing the Ashgrove area.

Pleasant even pretty though the new premises may have been, with patrons of the Aspley route bus service lined up side-by-side with patrons of the Ashgrove route bus service as they waited for their respective buses to arrive, anyone with a modicum of observation skills could notice that since the introduction of the King George Square Bus Station, the preparation and publication of a timetable and making it happen in real life were two very different animals. The buses on the Ashgrove route had little or no trouble observing their timetable obligations. However, the buses on the Aspley route were clearly the poorer cousins and often struggled to arrive and depart in accordance with the published timetable.

After experiencing this phenomenon for some time, Daniel had written to both his local Brisbane City Council councillor and the relevant State government compatriot indicating that the bus service provided to his area was inadequate both generally and specifically. Particularly when compared to that which appeared to service the Ashgrove area. Daniel implored the relevant politicians to reallocate the available resources so as to make the Aspley bus service more reflective of the published timetable and less akin to a guessing game or a round of pin the tail on the donkey.

The correspondence in reply to Daniel from Mr Protherow had been predictably lacking in insight Daniel thought. It said that there was no unusual timetable deviation on the Aspley route and the occasions where delays in the relevant services arriving had occurred were as a result of traffic congestion and / or unavoidable mechanical or personnel difficulties.

Arriving at work Mr Protherow found that his day was busy and was about to get a lot busier. There were also an unusual number of requests for his work vehicle, all work-related and all quite proper, but each one of them contributed to the demands made on his management skills. Two lengthy meetings scheduled for the following week had been unexpectedly brought forward to that day and both required his attendance and full participation. It was shaping up to be a day where his focus would need to be completely on what was in front of him and not on his later social life or recreation time. Whatever may have been his plans for lunch were effectively abandoned as the demands of his job that day would not permit him such an indulgence. Ten (10) minutes away from the office was seemingly ten (10) minutes too long and so the day was spent moving from one task to another and from one meeting to another.

No-one noticed any diminution in the work performance or contribution of Mr Protherow throughout the day. He was handling the demands of him admirably. Unfortunately those inclined to keep a watchful eye on Mr Protherow failed to notice the impact of his falling blood sugar levels because if they did, they would have noticed the tell tale signs of the drop and been able to assist him.

4:00 pm arrived before Mr Protherow had even had an opportunity to assess his progress and productivity for the day.  However the journey was by no means over, there were still two or three more mountains to climb. He thought he might see “daylight” at about 7:00 pm.

The demands for use of his work vehicle continued and showed no sign of abating. At 5:30 pm a request was made of Mr Protherow to borrow his work vehicle overnight, so that the task that required it in the first place might be completed. Mr Protherow anticipated no complications arising, so he agreed to that use of his vehicle. He thought that he could adequately be transported home on one of the Brisbane City Council buses. After all they were a significant part of his job and he was reasonably proud of the service they provided to the people of Brisbane.

So busy was the day for Mr Protherow that he had not even spoken to his wife since he left the house for work that morning. Usually he could find time for some conversation, even if it was no more than two minutes of “Hello, how are you? How is everything going?”  However the only contact that day provided was a text message from his wife at about 6:15 pm saying that the function that was entertaining her and the children would end at about 8:00 pm and then she would drive them home.

Shortly before 7:00 pm Mr Protherow saw his final meeting for the date conclude and as he watched the participants disperse, he noticed that he was the only member of his staff left in attendance. Apparently all of the others had gone home for the day. Upon returning to his desk after the rather long day, he noticed that no messages left for him required his immediate attention, so he too could promptly leave for the evening and do any tidy up work the following day. It was just after 7:00 pm by that stage and Mr Protherow remembered that the chemists able to dispense the insulin he needed would have closed. However, that did not pose any real problem he thought, as his wife had a sufficient supply to not only get him through the evening, but also well into the next day, by which time he could attend the chemist.

Mr Protherow tried telephoning his wife, but only got her voice mail. He thought she had probably turned off her telephone while she attended her function. He then thought if he caught a bus to Aspley he could meet her at the function at Aspley before it ended and go home with her and the children.  He could also attend to his blood sugar levels. I will look up the Aspley bus details, he thought, they will tell me where I might catch an Aspley bus, how long it would take to get to Aspley from the city and when the next bus was due to depart. Armed with that information he thought that he could comfortably get to the Aspley function before his wife and children left.

King George Square Bus Station
Mr Protherow found his way to the King George Square Bus Station and the particular stop where he understood he might catch the bus to his Aspley destination. Upon arriving at the stop he noticed people lined up for both the Aspley service and the Ashgrove service. He also noticed the information available about the timetables of those respective services indicated that they ran every 15 minutes and the difference between the Aspley service and the Ashgrove service was five (5) or ten (10) minutes depending on which way you looked at it. After sufficiently familiarising himself with the timetable for the Aspley service on display at the King George Square Bus Station Mr Protherow concluded that the next Aspley bus was scheduled to arrive in about five (5) minutes and that would have him at his destination well and truly in time to meet his wife and family.

Unbeknown to Mr Protherow also waiting at that stop on that occasion was Daniel Soames, the man to whom he had written earlier that month contending that no relevant flaws existed in the Aspley bus service and no inappropriate utilisation of resources or preference of resources occurred in respect of the Ashgrove bus service. Waiting with Daniel for the Aspley bus was his friend Angela whom he saw from time to time on the bus journey. Both Daniel and Angela were familiar with the machinations of the Aspley bus service by that stage and it did not surprise them when the bus for which they were waiting did not arrive in accordance with the advertised timetable. After the bus was more than ten (10) minutes late someone in the queue for the Aspley bus said “It looks like our bus is late again.” There were murmurs of agreement elsewhere in the queue. When fifteen (15) minutes passed someone in the queue said “Maybe the next bus will turn up.”

This was all new to Mr Protherow because his bus service ran efficiently and not in accordance with the complaints that he received, particularly like the complaint from Daniel Soames. With the 7:10 pm bus not arriving Mr Protherow focussed his attention on the 7:25 pm bus and was confident that it would satisfy his needs. Those needs were increasing because he was starting to feel the effects of his blood sugar deficiency.  It then occurred to him that his blood sugar levels was something to which he had paid an inappropriate amount of attention during the day. If that 7:25 pm bus arrived on time Mr Protherow felt he would meet his wife within sufficient time to take the glucose he needed without any further complications. He tried telephoning his wife again, but he continued to only get her voice mail, so he returned his focus to the next Aspley bus to arrive.

The definition of reliable understood by Angela and Daniel was not the definition of reliable Mr Protherow was expecting when the discussion amongst those waiting with him turned to the Aspley bus service. Angela commented to Daniel that the service was reliable and as usual the 7:25 pm bus was late, if it turned up at all. She also asked Daniel what progress he had made with the correspondence he sent to the relevant authorities about the Aspley bus service. Namely how the Ashgrove bus service does not seem to suffer the difficulties suffered by the Aspley service, difficulties which were readily apparent for the world to see that evening.

Daniel said to her, “It is interesting that you should ask that question, because I got a letter yesterday from a Mr Protherow at the Brisbane City Council telling me that there was no unusual timetable deviation on the Aspley route.  He said the occasions where delays in the relevant services arriving had occurred were as a result of traffic congestion and / or unavoidable mechanical or personnel difficulties. So therefore, Angela, the difficulties that we can see with our own eyes in respect of the Aspley service as compared to the Ashgrove service are not occurring and do not exist.”

Angela said, “Thanks for clarifying that situation for me and explaining that the two buses this evening that have not turned up are normal for this service. A situation not occurring with the Ashgrove service.  I would not like to be someone who was relying on this bus service for a serious situation.”

Daniel said “My sentiments exactly.”

Unbeknown to all concerned that conversation was overheard by Mr Protherow.  It caused him to revisit in his mind the complaint situation raised by Daniel earlier.  He now had a significantly different view of that complaint. By that stage Mr Protherow was becoming concerned as to his blood sugar level situation.  However he noticed the time was 7:30 pm, so he thought the bus would be along shortly.  He would be in a position to deal with his blood sugar levels with the help of his wife.

As fate would have it the faith of Mr Protherow in the Aspley bus service was unhealthy on a number of levels. Like the 7:10 pm bus before it, the 7:25 pm bus did not arrive and the ever-increasing line of patrons awaiting a bus for that service would have to wait until 7:40 pm before a bus arrived to take them to their destination.

On any view the Aspley bus situation was unsatisfactory for Mr Protherow and his needs. The demands of the day had taken its toll upon him and apparently on his thought processes, because his assessment of his situation was nowhere near as serious as in fact was the case. His health situation was deteriorating quickly and apparently significantly more quickly than he realised. Just after 7:30 pm one of the patrons in line with him waiting for the Aspley bus asked him if he was alright because he did not look well. He replied that he thought he would be okay.

Just after 7:35 pm Angela reached into her handbag and retrieved a partially eaten packet of Fruit Tingles. There were two left in the packet and she offered one of them to Daniel, who happily accepted the offer. Moments after those lollies were placed in their respective mouths the situation with Mr Protherow was revisited; he apparently went into hypoglycaemic shock. One of the people waiting for the bus noticed his situation and used the emergency telephone facilities nearby to call for an ambulance.

Unlike the Aspley route buses, the ambulance attended promptly. Unfortunately the deterioration of the condition of Mr Protherow was more serious than anyone anticipated and he died before the ambulance officers could treat him.