I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this subject elsewhere so I’m not going to say anything other than to recommend that you have a listen to this.
Passing information can be a bit of a delicate art. There’s a precarious balance between informing people and overloading them. There’s also a need to distinguish between what information is useful for others to know and what is better not revealed. And then there’s out and out lies.
The other day we had severe delays (heh) on the line. To the extent that I *was* the line and was specifically mentioned over the radio as being “the” train which was running the full length of the line. I smiled and waved back at The Voices who then continued to burble about severe delays. I waved again. It seemed only polite.
A lot of information came out over the radio that day and some of it seemed contradictory so I phoned up The Voices for a chat. “Why”, I enquired, “did the Line Information Assistant say I’m not running when the last I heard I’m doing the whole thing?”
The Voice sounded a bit distracted and explained that the first message where I drove a train was the message-to-drivers and the second message was the message-to-station-staff. The former being the one that told us what we were doing and the latter being a complete fabrication to tell the customers. He then conceded it was probably a bit tricky to tell the difference between the two. As I now knew what was going on it was easy enough for me to make an extra announcement to the passengers to tell them to ignore the lies.
Sometimes, it is in everyone’s best interests to be a bit circumspect with the truth. The lies in this case were announcements on the stations stating that the line was part-suspended and for customers to take alternative routes. Not true of course because there I was driving the whole line and other trains were being brought in to do the same. But by telling people to use specific other lines to get to their destination we were able to get them off the platforms and moving more quickly. The alternative would be to have everyone packing onto platforms and waiting for the one train that would take them. Not everybody could get on and if the crowds get big enough then stations have to be closed to prevent accidents. Packed platforms can be dangerous.
The platforms were very crowded today. There weren’t many trains running early on due to the RMT being on strike. As more of the ASLEF staff came in things picked up a bit but we still weren’t able to run the entire line. I think the general policy was to try to bring people in from the outskirts of London and let the service drop in central areas as there are buses to move people about. This was a reasonable plan and I’d have been perfectly happy to go with it had I not been required to lie to the customers about the plan.
Initially we were told to run almost the entire line. Which was fine. But then it was revealed that we’d only be running half of it in service but were to still put the final destination up on the front of the trains. Why would we do that if we weren’t actually going the whole length of the line? Ah, this was the clever bit. Every so often a train would be sent down the entire length of the line and then reversed. Of course, as most of the stations were shut it would have to run empty but at least it could be “honestly” claimed that trains were running the entire length of the line.
I presume this stunt was dreamed up to try to impress the media. I was pleased to see that most drivers (once they realised what was going on) changed their destination blind and announcements to reflect a more accurate service pattern. The platform indicators still showed that trains were running through but that seemed to melt away after a while as some rather more honest information was given. I’m not going to spend my day trying to pass travel information to my customers but also lie about some of it. People have places to go and they don’t need the bullshit dicking around that LUL and the RMT do to score points off one another. It may well be the case that a particular driver was questioned by a passenger and rather bluntly pointed out that the indicator boards were not particularly truthful. It may also be the case that this brought a scowl to the face of the PR-drone drafted in to stand on the platform and give directions. Ah well, shit happens.
Dear Idiot Customer,
If I have told you that one of the brakes is failing and you all need to get off the train here and sorry but it won’t be going any further then for the love of pete do not try to engage me in your pathetic whining. Yes I understand that it is the weekend and we’re on a limited service but that’s because there are engineering works over which I have no control. And guess what? Railways do not yet operate on luck and pixie dust. They operate on metal and stone and the laws of physics and this means repairing or replacing rather large bits of equipment at reasonably regular intervals. Failure to do this rather drastically increases your chances of death while travelling. If you don’t like it then go away and start working out how to run things on luck and pixie dust. If it works we’ll probably pay you lots for that idea.
Oh and fuck off anyway because we weren’t even supposed to be running this far but the guys worked their arses off and finished the works a day early at which point everybody decided it would be nice to scramble the night before and work out an extended service. So if you want us to run according to plan then we can quite happily return you to the point we were supposed to stop and refuse to run you any further than that. Oh except we can’t because the brakes are failing and I’m kicking you the fuck off my train.
Except I usually won’t say that because in general those who argue about such things are not worth bothering with and I’ll just nod and smile and tell you how sorry I am and then continue my merry way not caring in the slightest about you. (This is to your detriment because those who politely and reasonably speak to me about how to get to where they are going will be the ones I don’t mind stopping to help). And don’t even begin to bitch about how noisy the train is and how you can’t hear your iPod because I will just laugh at you.
There was a small flurry of news articles earlier this week discussing the timing of switching UK radio over to digital. Apparently there is a relatively low uptake of digital radio and the government feels that people are unconvinced of the superior quality of digital radio and are afraid of new technology.
The reason I’ve so far rejected a digital radio is that they all look rubbish. It’s 2010 but every manufacturer seems to be obsessed with the 1950s and styles their radios accordingly. What is up with that? Why did the design stutter in that era? There’s very little I like about the 50s stylewise. It’s all MEGA COLOURS and curves or metalandwood with design which screams to be looked at.
I just want a radio. A small radio which will sit in a corner and be ignored until I want to use it. A radio which won’t pretend to be from another time. A radio that looks as though it was made last year and it was. A radio which doesn’t need to stand out from the crowd and gleam under gasps of admiration because let’s face it, radios ain’t new and they don’t need to be admired.
Now, I know that it’s possible to get radios like this. But the last time I looked they cost ridiculous amounts compared to the 50s monstrosities on offer. I have looked periodically and I shall probably do so again soon. But until I find a design which matches my 2010 life I won’t buy. I’ll just continue to fiddle with the dial every time I want to change station and I’ll put up with the slight static because analogue works well enough and they’ve had long enough to work out how to design something decent.