Oxenholm Station Kendal, UK- Photo credit Barry Harley

Lecturing at the University of Huddersfield

Sometimes the end of a matter is better than the beginning.

Part of our vacation trip this summer took us to Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales. After we arrived at Manchester Airport, my wife and I went to the ticket counter to purchase tickets to the Oxenholme Railway Station in Kendal. The customer service agent suggested that we buy return tickets, which we did. We each received two tickets– one that said “in” and the other that said “out.” At the time, that seemed pretty straight forward to me.

After spending a couple of days in Howgill near Oxenholme, we took the train to the Manchester Airport for a flight to France. (You can read about that part of the trip on my blog at www.barryharley.com.)

What happened on the train ride from Oxenholme to the airport was one of those fortunate moments for me. When the train left the station, I made sure I had the required ticket, which I assumed was the “out” ticket, having already used the “in” ticket. The conductor approached me and requested politely in his Yorkshire accent, “Tickets, please.” I handed him my ticket only to hear him respond, “This is not the correct ticket.” I then pulled out my receipt showing that I had paid for a roundtrip. He said, “You need the ‘in’ ticket.” Then he walked away. I started a frantic search for the “in” ticket, which I could not find. I then followed the conductor down the aisle and asked if there was anything I could do. He replied, “Pay for another ticket.”

I then sheepishly explained that I had mistakenly used the “in” ticket on the earlier leg of the trip when I should have used the “out” ticket. With no response from him, I returned to my seat and waited for him to pass again so I could pay for another ticket. When he arrived at my seat, he asked for the receipt I had shown him earlier. He scribbled on it and said, “If you are asked, show them that I have approved the ticket.” I was relieved.

My wife sat across from me because there weren’t any seats left together. Sitting next to me was a distinguished-looking British gentleman. As I settled in my seat, he told me, “Well negotiated.” At the time, I did not think of it as a negotiation. But later I saw that the normal selling mentality went into play– I had made an honest mistake and wanted lenience.

This led to a lively, fascinating two-hour conversation with the gentleman, who introduced himself as Stephen Gibbs. We discussed spirituality, American psychology, the state of the British Empire, its people and their mindset. There were things that I had experienced in my travels to the UK this year that I was unfamiliar with. But the conversation with Stephen changed my view of the UK and Europe. What I did not know was that Stephen missed his stop just so we could carry on our conversation.

When the train reached my stop, we ended our pleasant chat. It was at that point he told me that he was Dr. Stephen Gibbs, a senior lecturer at the awarding-winning University of Huddersfield. Dr. Gibbs then invited me to present two lectures about my experiences with American entrepreneurship. I ended up giving three lectures at the university — a memorable experience that never would have happened if I hadn’t used the wrong train ticket.

University of Huddersfield School of Design. Photo Credit Barry Harley
Unversity of Huddersfield. Photo Credit Barry Harley
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