As you may be aware if you read this blog on a regular basis, I’m a great enthusiast for rail travel. But it can’t be denied that it’s not always perfect. I would like, if I may, to have a little rant. If I may not, then screw you and get your own blog. As you please. Anyway, after rehearsals (for the play I’m in) on Thursday, Hurricane Jack and I made our way to Teddington Station, near the rehearsal venue. It was a little after eleven, for we had stopped at a favoured hostelry for a swift pint. The indicators weren’t showing any trains, but on the other hand, they weren’t specifically not showing any trains – that is to say, no notifications that there was anything wrong. In any case, there were at least two trains due to go to Wimbledon that night and another to Kingston, both of which would suit me nicely. I’m not some greenhorn, I have a black belt in commuting.
We waited. The train didn’t come at the appointed time. Well, that’s not necessarily a problem, I mean trains sometimes do get delayed a bit. No doubt if anything was showing on the indicator, this fact would have been reflected.
Still we waited. To sate our curiosity as much as anything else, I pressed the Information button. For those of you unfamiliar with railway stations (you hoity-toity rich bastards), they typically have a little white box that allows you to link to an information centre. They go by the name “Help Points.” These points have two buttons on them – one labelled “Information” and another labelled “Emergency.” I’m not sure what the latter does, but I’m told it does cause the CCTV cameras to automatically stare at you. Anyway, I pressed the Information button, which beeped annoyingly and went unanswered. I considered pressing the Emergency button and informing the operator that the Information person had died, but decided to wait until the facts were in.
Still, there was no sign of the train. The Fat Controller would most certainly not have stood for this. There were quite a few other people on the platform by now, equally puzzled. The indicator board still carried no indications, but did suggest that if we still needed information, we should ring a number that would charge us for the privilege of finding out the information that should be displayed for free.
In desperation, I pressed the Information button again. This time, I finally did get an answer. The conversation ran thus:
YR HUMBLE CHRONICLER: “Hello, are there any trains to Wimbledon?”
WOMAN ON OTHER END: “Where are you trying to get to?”
YHC: (patiently) “Wimbledon.”
WOOE: “Well, there are a lot of delays at the moment due to the earlier fatality -”
WOOE: “- the 10.30 train is currently running 40 minutes late…”
YHC: “It’s 11.30…”
WOOE: (after a pause) “Well, the next train would most likely be the one to Shepperton – it’ll go down the line and come back.”
YHC: “The 11.45 to Shepperton?”
WOOE: “You might want to go to Kingston. Trains are running from there. You can get a taxi and post the receipt to South West Trains tomorrow.”
YHC: “Okay. You know, there’s no information here to say any of that – I mean, there are quite a few people waiting for the train and there’s no indication that there’s even anything wrong -”
WOOE: “I don’t deal with the indicators.” (hangs up)
Not being a taxi-using person, particularly given that Teddington to Kingston is basically walking distance, I went with Hurricane Jack’s suggestion that I just get a couple of buses. It would come to the same amount of time and considerably less hassle in the end.
And so we left, pausing only to explain the situation to our fellow passengers. South West Trains should really have been the ones to do that, what with it being their station and their train and all. I guess we’re just that much more civic-minded. Christ, when Hurricane Jack and I are the civic-minded ones in a situation, you know things have gone badly wrong.
Then we got followed by what Hurricane Jack initially thought was a headless cat. I hate Thursdays.