Saturday, August 19, 2006

Driving me crazy

One of my talented and good-looking colleagues, SW, recently confided to me a tale of train delays, and dodgy mobile reception, on the train to Southampton over our morning coffee (or in her case, morning dodgy cup of wierd herbal stuff that smells like Pay-Doh - I mean, honestly, stinging nettles and hot water does not an appealling combination make). Par for the commuting course, you might think - any hardened commuter of more than a week's standing would be able to draw on deep seam of such stories - but what really tickled her was the demeanor of the driver. Not only was he sincerely apologetic and almost too talkative - providing updates on the sitation and ETA every 5 minutes - but he even offered to let passengers without mobile reception use his mobile phone! Even SW, a lady not noted for her patience, was mollified and eventually reached her destination feeling that at least the train company had done their best to get her there on time. A heartening tale of the power of good manners, to be sure, and it brings me to my topic this week: train drivers.

One thing that has struck me over the course of my years on the rails, has been the change in the approach of the drivers. Now without wanting to get all political, it seems to me that since privatisation, the drivers (and I'm not talking about the rest of the staff here) have got a bit, well, posh. Back when I was a mere slip of a lad commuting to school every day, you were lucky to get a grunt from the driver in the course of an entire journey - although it did really get up their noses if you interfered with the doors. These days, no sooner has bum touched seat than the driver introduces himself, reels off the list of upcoming stops, cordially reminds you of the safety notices on board and wishes you a very pleasant journey. On some of the intercity routes they even thank you for travelling with them! It really is gratifying to feel one is in the hands of such an obliging chap.

The phenomenon even appears to have spread to the London Underground. For me, the romance of the tube has been somewhat lessened since I was forced to accept that it is operated by actualy human beings. There was real excitement, when I was kid, in descending into the bowels of the city to get on one of these grey metal machines, moving soundlessly from place to place, grim and purposeful. Having to use the network in rush hour has also lessened its appeal: the crush of sweaty humanity locked in an endless, hopeless struggle for elbow room is hardly conducive to a sense of wonder. But again, the fact that the staff that strive daily to keep London's people moving, actually seem to want you to get to where you want to go when you want to get there, does genuinely make you feel better disposed towards them, even when nothing is moving and the clock is ticking.

As SW would surely agree, London's buses have not quite reached the same standards of politeness yet, but then again they do seem to run on time, so maybe they don't need to.

1 Comments:

At 12:01 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

Hi, enjoying the blog. Just to let you know I have put a link from my blog to yours!

Enjoy your commute!

 

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