Hell’s Waiting Room
Once I found the International Train Ticket area, located intuitively at Platform 1, I had a special treat in Hell’s Waiting Room, as gaily dressed Dutch casually joked among each other, and an international menagerie of passengers waited for their numbers to be called, so that they could reserve a seat on a premium rail service. A board displayed what numbers had been called to what counter.
It seemed that I had thirty numbers before me. I consulted my timetable and saw that, were my interpretation of the funky symbols correct, there was a Thalys direct to Paris departing in forty minutes. Assuming that they process one waiting person per minute, no problem. After some patient waiting, and observation, and wondering why it was so difficult for people to book rail tickets, I saw that I had ten minutes and twenty numbers ahead of me. It was harder still to reckon how fast things moved, as half the numbers were in a different sequence from my own.
Anxious, I returned to the girl who passed numbers out, who explained that the train that I was anxious about was not running that day, and then gave me a number from the other sequence, which was the “last minute” queue, and I was seen immediately. I ended up with a Sneltrain to Brussels, from where a Thalys would take me to Paris Nord. The Thalys, however, required a €21 supplement.
Apparently, Thalys is about the only high-speed rail service that requires a supplement. I was annoyed, but inclined to pay it, since I love trains, and could thus find value in experiencing Thalys. After that, I could avoid it, and save money by selecting TGV, ICE, and friends.