Monday, October 4, 2010

Been patronised lately?

I seem to be getting a reputation as someone who has an irrational hatred of announcements. This is possibly because I'm the only one on the train looking up at the speaker and loudly saying, “Shut the fuck up.”

My kids already think I’m weird
Other people – my friends especially – seem to think I’m weird for doing this. Partly this is because I live in London, went to a good school and am solidly middle class. Therefore I should not be making any sort of noise on public transport, unless, of course, I am talking loudly into my smartphone about something that could easily wait the 25 minutes till I get into the office but which makes me look like a real big shot in front of total strangers who will nonetheless be impressed at an almost sexual level to discover that, after over two decades of wearing a tie to work, I have a vague idea of how to do my job. The unspoken rule is, if you can’t bellow your insecurity into your Blackberry, keep quiet.

This is how we think in the Home Counties. It’s bad enough me talking back to the disembodied voice of a railway hireling who has been piped into my cochlea by a computer, but it’s only a short step from there to talking to my fellow passengers almost as if they were real human beings, which will lay me open to accusations of being a nutter or, worse, a northerner.

But I have an objection to my friends’ arguments. The objection is this: I’m the sane one. I know I'm being a bit embarrassing, but I’ve got teenage kids and so I’m used to being a public embarrassment. It holds no fears for me.

Seriously, I loved moving to a job in London so that I wouldn't have to play Turkish roulette with the lorry drivers on the M25. I’d be able to sit, or stand, and read a book. I love reading and I spent thirteen years not reading and listening to Deep Purple, Can or even gawdelpus Grand Funk Railroad on my car stereo, which can't be healthy. And now I can’t read on the train either because I’m always being distracted by some bum-nose telling me that I’m in carriage four of eight, or to mind the gap at a station that I won’t reach for another ten minutes and where the platform is totally straight anyway and the gap is so narrow you couldn't even lose a contestant for America’s Top Model.

Those announcements are irritating for their intrusive pointlessness and, because they treat everything as a danger, they risk numbing our senses to any danger that might genuinely exist.

But the latest ones are downright insulting: Network Rail (for I presume it is they) are now telling parents to keep a close eye on their children because a stations can be “dangerous places”. No, really? Because I never knew that my kid might get damaged if she were hit by a train going through at 80mph. Next you’ll be telling me that wet surfaces are slippery. Oh sorry, you are. Because I’m only 46 and I never knew about the lubricating properties of H20. Thanks, you patronising bastards. And yet you still put up posters saying “Our staff deserve respect” even though you accord your customers no respect at all and you still don’t understand why we might want to wallop anyone who wears your uniform?

Stop insulting me. I’m a grown-up. And I’m not fooled by your pretence that you care about my well-being. I know you’re only doing it because some snivelling little shit in your head office is paranoid about being sued. So you’re antagonising your customers and making our journeys just that little bit more miserable because you want to proclaim your cowardice and ignorance of the law. And you still don’t understand why we despise you?

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