Intimidation is a ‘fear-filled’ thing!
Lesley and I were enjoying a 2-day mini-break in Budapest to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The very helpful guy manning the hotel reception desk was keen to show us all the ‘best deals’ to get the most out of our time in the city, eventually narrowing it down to two options – either a ‘hop-on-hop-off’ bus pass or a ‘Buda Card.’
I decided it would be best to buy the Buda Card which gave us unlimited travel on all the city buses and trams and discounts into many of the museums and places of interest. Our Hungarian friend looked at us both thoughtfully….
“You are both from the UK, right?” Right
“The UK is still in the EU, right?” Well, just about
“You’re both ‘of a certain age’ … am I correct?” Correct
He explained that as over-65s we were entitled to free public transport on all buses, trams and underground trains throughout the city. All we had to do was show our passports to the conductor or driver of the vehicle as proof of our ages. Lesley, ever the canny shopper, was delighted. We bought the ‘hop-on and off’ bus pass instead (well worth it by the way) and set off for the day’s sightseeing.
I, however, was beginning to feel sceptical and a little uneasy. After all, Austria is also part of the EU, but in Austria a ‘senior card’ has to be purchased before any senior rates become applicable. “Just show your passport to the driver” were his instructions, so we decided to do just that when taking the underground train back to the bus station the next day.
Well, we spend a full day walking, sightseeing, happily hopping on and off the bus in glorious sunshine, Lesley, still without a care in the world. However, my imagination was replaying what had happened on our arrival in Budapest and our first use of said underground train. An official stationed by the ticket machine had guided us through purchasing our tickets... he hadn’t referred to our ages? Why not? And then, as we’d exited the station the three rather intimidating young guards asking to see our tickets… they hadn’t mentioned free travel for senior citizens either! As the time for us to make our journey out of the city got closer, an inner scenario had developed in my imagination.
We get on the underground without purchasing a ticket. We’re stopped at our destination by the same three guards, demanding to know why we’d travelled without tickets. Showing our passports doesn’t illicit the response we’d been told of. We don’t speak Hungarian. They don’t speak English. They delay us for further questioning. We miss our bus back to Vienna…
My beloved’s suggestion that this apprehension was simply a fear attack didn’t help at all. So I persuaded her that it would be safer to simply follow the ticket purchasing system we’d been shown on our arrival – after all, we were only talking of a few hundred forints – just three or four euros. Let’s just forget about the ‘free transport’ idea!
So that’s what we did. Newly purchased tickets in hand we headed towards the platform only to be confronted by two guards. “Stop!” the first one commanded. “Documents! Documents!” We showed him our tickets … and our passports! He spent some time carefully examining our passports, and then explained via his colleague who spoke very little English, that we didn’t need the tickets. We were entitled to travel free of charge – and “No, no refund is possible!”
As we rode the Metro to the bus station I continued to feel angry with myself for my ‘fearful’ response to such a simple challenge, and was still berating myself as I approached the refreshment counter to order coffees while we waited for our bus back to Vienna. While the young assistant prepared our order, her male colleague struck up a conversation with me, telling me he was ‘an idiot.’ When I asked him why he thought that about himself he explained (partly by mime) that he’d lifted weights wrongly, injured his back, and was now afraid that the damage was permanent.
As he continued to describe the pain, its location and a pinched nerve, I realised he could have been describing the damage I’d done to my own back some years ago, and how Jesus had healed me. I don’t know how much he understood of my explanation of Father’s love for him, but my offer to pray for him was readily accepted.
As I walked away from the counter, coffees in hand, I watched him demonstrating to his colleague how he was now free from pain and able to bend and twist!
Hallelujah - intimidation broken!