diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 19, 2008

I travelled up to Norfolk by train yesterday. Seven stations in ninety minutes, all pretty much on time and without incident. But one thing about the journey repeatedly niggled. A few minutes before each and every station stop, the chief steward delivered the following announcement over the tannoy. And I wish she hadn't.
Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly be arriving at <insert name of station>.
Change here for services to <somewhere> and <somewhere else>.
If leaving the train at the next station please make sure that you have all your possessions with you.
Please use all available carriage exits, making sure that you close doors and windows behind you, and ensure that you take your ticket with you when you leave.
Actually I can't guarantee that's the precise wording she used, but I heard her spiel often enough to know I've got the gist right. It was obvious she was reading every time from a pre-determined script, or at least had delivered this speech so frequently that she knew every word by heart. More to the point, I'm sure the speech didn't used to be this long. The operating company have been adding in extra instructions, and even more extra instructions, presumably because they think we're so stupid that we need to hear them. Where will it all end?
Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly be arriving at <insert name of station>.
OK, I don't mind that bit. It's not always obvious what the next station will be (are we stopping at Stowmarket or not?) and platform signs aren't always legible enough to be read from inside a carriage.
Change here for services to <somewhere> and <somewhere else>.
And that's OK too, especially for infrequent travellers. Because, you know, somebody might actually be going to Lowestoft or Harwich or Bury St Edmunds for the very first time.
If leaving the train at the next station please make sure that you have all your possessions with you.
I never leave a train carriage without thinking "do I have all my possessions with me?" I'm able to do this because I'm a responsible citizen, and I don't need repeatedly reminding like I'm an blundering amnesiac. In particular I don't need prompting at every single station, on every single train, every time I travel. I know it's important that unattended hand luggage is avoided at all costs, because any ensuing police operation can cost huge amounts of unnecessary time and money. But surely we've all now heard this message so often, so frequently, that it goes straight over our heads, with zero impact, its meaning totally unnoticed, and ... oh damn, I think I just left my laptop on the train.
Please use all available carriage exits...
You what? This Inter City carriage has two exits, one of them closer to my seat than the other. What are the chances that I'll accidentally head towards the wrong exit, the slow exit, and won't notice? Really, surely, this part of the message is completely unnecessary?
...making sure that you close doors and windows behind you...
OK, I know that closing the doors saves a lot of time. If I don't slam the door shut then the poor guard may have to walk miles up the platform to close it before the train can depart, slowing the service and creating unnecessary delays. But closing the window too? Erm, why? Opening the window is part of the inefficient door unlocking mechanism, so why force us to close it again afterwards? Are they worried that the rain might get in or the central heating might get out? Really, aren't there better things to nag us about?
...and ensure that you take your ticket with you when you leave.
Oh come on, now you're just taking the mickey. Do people really leave their tickets on the train, thinking "oh, I bet I won't need that"? Or do naughty people try sneaking through the ticket barrier by saying "oh sorry, I had my ticket checked on the train so I thought I'd leave it there"? I think not. Honestly, whatever insane extra request will they decide to add next?
Customers and stakeholders, we will shortly be arriving at <insert name of transport node>.
Change here for other services with equally annoying on-board announcements.
If leaving the train at the next station please make sure that you take any unexploded baggage with you.
Please exit via a door, not a window, and slam it behind you taking special care not to smash your fingers.
Please do not vomit on the floor on your way out, or carve your initials in the back of the headrest, or spit on your fellow passengers, or run amok in the carriage with a large machete.
Please continue to breathe at all times, and thank you for travelling with National Express.
I live in fear that, even by the time I travel home, something similarly ridiculous may have come to pass.

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