My sister and I are headed for the Royal Observatory,
and we’ve decided to take a ride on the Thames to get there.
The boat we jump on is part of the London public transportation system,
accepts the “Oyster” card
you can also use for the bus or “the tube.”
This is my first time in England, April 2017,
and my sister had purchased the card for me before I arrived.
My sister goes first through the line, taps her card on the reader, and moves on.
I tap my card and an error message comes up.
“Go ahead and try it again,” the operator says.
Still the error.
My sister comes back, asks what the problem is.
He explains there’s no money on the card.
My sister says she put 30 pounds on the card,
that we’ve not used even close to that amount so far.
The operator repeats that the balance is zero.
I ask if I can I pay in cash or by credit card.
I ask if my sister can pay with her card.
Each card is unique to the user and shows how far you’ve traveled
when you tap your card at the end of the trip.
That’s how they charge you: By how far you’ve gone.
“So I guess I can’t get on,” I say.
The operator says, “That’s okay, just go on.”
He waves me through.
“You mean I don’t have to tap?” I ask.
“No, no problem,” he says, “this is a free ride.”