Monthly Archives: June 2008

Ah England…

What’s the most annoying entity known to man?

Salesmen? Shell-suits? Haemorrhoids? (In that order).

No – It’s British Rails automated tannoy stammering ‘The eight oh one will neh-ver ah-rive. I am eggs-tree-mlee soh-ree for this delay.’

Nothing screams insincerity like a robot apologising…

…Especially when, as was the case this morning, four trains worth of people were trying to get onto one. The potential bloodbath of acrimony was counteracted by our all being British. The best we could muster were scowls and grumbled comments that we were ‘really quite put out.’ I myself had a good mind to invest in a bowler hat, march staunchly up to the controller’s office to give him an ‘ear-bashing’ – calling him the ‘cad and bounder’ he so clearly was.

But then – oh joys of joys – I spotted an empty seat. Why, given our inhuman stances, was it free? The answer – because we were in first class and none of us had the right ticket.

‘Sod this’ I thought breaking my stiff, starchy upbringing and fought my way though to a barrage of scornful glares from pinstripe toffs (I was wearing trainers – the shame). The inspector spotted my leap across the social-divide. I responded with the ‘Ask for my ticket and you will die,’ look that every commuter perfects within weeks of travel.

So, with a defiant act of truly middle-class proportions I was rewarded with a big leather armchair, a nice view of the passing countryside and the satisfaction of having not paid for the privilege.

The annoyance that I’d felt subsided and the disgruntled complaint that I’d intended to write instead morphed into a cathartic venting of surrealism.

Firstly, I suggested that if they really wanted to sound sincere that should replace the robot with a (neurotic) real person sobbing uncontrollably – ‘Oh my Gohhhhhd I’ve ruined your day. These are precious seconds you’ll never get back. Why do I keep doing this to you? Whhhyyyyyyyyyyeeeee? What the hell is wrong with me? Please help me…I’m sick…’

An alternative suggestion was that they pep up the announcements with a little fiction. For example:

‘We apologise for the delay. The driver found his wife in bed with another man and was forced to beat them both to death. Apparently it had been going on for years, but he’d never come home on time.’ (b-rum tsss).

Or, ‘You’ll never guess what – We’re giving away free lap-dances to all you frustrated red-blooded males freezing your asses off on the platform…not really – the trains been cancelled.’

Or ‘Jeez, I’ve never seen so many ugly people in one place…and you’re late…man you’re a loser.’ 

I have a mate who writes under the pseudonym of Geraldine Flask. ‘He’ sends deliberately pointless letters to organisations e.g. Suggesting to the government that they remove ‘X’ from the alphabet as it doesn’t deserve to be associated with such mighty members as ‘A’ and ‘T’*

I used to think it was silly, but now consider it both admirable and something to be encouraged. The alternatives are either continued English stuffiness or else out and out violence…

* He also collects sick-bags which is just ridiculous…

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My job brings me into contact with a lot of salesmen – mostly trying to flog more contractors to the project I’m running. This last week it has gone into hyper drive – seeming as though everyone around me is running some sort of scam. Various examples include:

  • Several home phone calls from women with Eastern European accents who informed me that me and my wife (!) had won an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris for a Feng-Shui convention, and that all we had to do was come to a two hour presentation on time-share properties.
  • Two men spent four days standing in the middle of Waterloo station dressed in yellow and pink spandex costumes and capes – all claiming to be ‘DHL man’ and advertising their express postage service.
  • However, the best by far was executed by a tramp who walked up to the check-out in Sainsburys, fished some sausages out of a plastic bag and said ‘My wife came in earlier and bought these by mistake. She meant to buy a bottle of whisky. Can I swap them?’

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