Sunday, 11 January 2009

This summer, two cities collapse involuntarily due to the sheer unreliability of their connecting public transport networks. Leeds - Lancs, THE MOVIE

Let it never be said that I hate public transport. I know many people who refer to buses as "peasant wagons", and a few more who haven't been on a train since childhood. Their reasons for avoiding these social-interaction-laden modes of transport vary. For some, the memory of a time when their train was late 5 years ago is enough to put them off for life, and for others (usually my friends, and people who I am sympathetic towards) the mere thought of seeing all those people and accidentally getting something wrong and ending up somewhere you shouldn't just because admitting you were wrong was far too embarrassing, brings them out with clammy palms and a panicked, dazed sort of look in their eyes.

I agree, for the most part, with the second group of people. I can't drive however, and so I have to use public transport often, and in various places.

Usually, bus and train services in the places I go to (mainly Lancaster, Leeds and Hull) are quite good. They usually come on time-ish, they are usually quite clean and tidy, and the drivers/ticket people aren't over-friendly. In fact, some of them actively go out of their way to avoid eye contact and interaction as much as possible. That's my kind of customer service. As long as you memorise your itinerary before you set off, no embarrassing "oh my god, I'm on the wrong platform....I can't walk away now, people will KNOW....oh my god, I'm going to have to go to Crewe" moments should happen (although yesterday I made the glorious mistake of trying to operate an automatic ticket barrier whilst tired and on the phone. After 3 years of jamming my ticket into a slot that wasn't having any of it, I realised the barrier was open anyway. And people saw. And probably laughed. My skin's crawling just thinking about it.). My only beef with the national public transport system is that compared to everything else (broadband, TV, other country's public transport) it's about as reliable as wet paper bag trying to keep hold of some yoghurt. Today my train was cancelled after already becoming 30 minutes late. No explanation was given, I'm assuming the entire train carraige was lifted off the rails by a group of pigeons hell bent on slightly inconveniencing 60 people on a Sunday night, because that's the only acceptable excuse I would have taken. It was raining, there was no other way of getting out of Preston - the world's most depressing city - and the were a LOT of us. The prospect of wading through town to the bus station on the off chance that a non-existent late night service may be going to somewhere resembling civilisation loomed in front of me like a massive concrete radiator (...that's what Preston bus station looks like). We were all herded outside into the rain, so we did was was expected of us - we yelled for 15 minutes like trapped cattle until Virgin trains delivered some futuristic coaches for us to go home in.

As I stared blankly at the motorway, I realised I was horribly depressed and accidentally listening to "Look of Love" by ABC. An angry woman with purple hair was driving us home, and there were several thousand exiteable man-children talking about football sat all around me. I wanted to read, but after realising on the train that a man was reading American Psycho over my shoulder and had obviously got to the bit where he's doing something explicit to a lady before I did; I really didn't think that book was suitable for reading in public. So I stared out of the window, now listening to Kids by Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue, wishing for the fourtieth time that I had been born in Leeds, that I could drive, that Lancaster and Preston didn't exist, and that Virgin trains would give me a refund unless the pigeon thing was true. I don't think it is. I'm never seeing that £16 again.

1 comment:

Nicholas Van Vactor said...

It made me laugh. I was thinking about a skit that Dave Chappel did. If you're on youtube, you type in 'transportation,' you might get it. About a homeless guy who terrorizes people on a bus.

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