WHAT a bright modern world we live in, where not only can we buy our tickets before we travel, we can choose our seats through a dating agency set of questions.
Would you like a seat facing the direction of travel? Perhaps with a power socket? Do you need a table? How about one of those pull-down tray arrangements that makes you think you are really on an aeroplane? In fact, would you like an airline-type seat? Can we introduce you to the driver? Would you prefer to only sit opposite people with corresponding birth signs/political orientation/gender alignment?
Of course, we input all these requests into the website, secure in the knowledge that it makes not a jot of difference. Like a drunken waiter who forgets what you’ve ordered, you’ll get on the train to find that no matter what you ticked, you’ll be stuck on at the back next to the toilets with no power socket and half a window.
CrossCountry rail’s seat reservation system probably ignores travellers wishes, too. And it could do with including some other preferences on the checklist, options that are clearly available on the 9.28 service last Sunday evening from Aberdeen to Edinburgh.
Re: your table . . . would you like a table covered in crisps, two half-eaten sandwiches and a small bunch of grapes? Would you like three open bottles of beer on the table, guaranteed to fly across the carriage at various points on the journey?
Re: beer . . . would you prefer the beer bottles to roll incessantly backwards and forwards on the floor or side to side?
Re: bottles . . . can we include a dangerously full option that will spill copious amounts on the floor mid-flight, thus ensuring the gentle aroma of stale beer for your entire journey? We call this CrossCountry Rail Live Action Aromatherapy, a perfect balance for the ambient background scent of Enter If You Dare Toilet. We would like to take this opportunity to reassure customers that we use no harsh chemical products in our lavatory cleaning process. We are protecting the environment by simply not cleaning the toilets.
Re: the seat you have reserved . . . do you actually want to sit in it, bearing in mind that a display of Pringles tubes, empty Coke bottles and banana skins is delectably laid out like the Rokeby Venus?
Re: your carriage . . . heating is optional. We’re not telling you who holds the option, but we can tell you, it’s not you. Relax. Cold air is good for the traveller, keeps you awake, is anti-ageing. Also, if the carriage was heated, the remains of the hamburgers on the tables would start to rot.
The entire train could have been described as a cattle truck, but given recent updates on animal transportation, I think you’ll find this train wasn’t actually fit for pigs.
Manky trains go to track and ruin
Ah yes, you will say, but people who travel are mucky pups, and I would agree with you. Food on a train means waste, packaging, bottles, cans and banana skins.
In order to have the great travelling public tidy behind them, you need to give them a bin. And by bin I mean something more substantial than the sneaky wee triangular thing that hides between the seats.
You could hand out plastic bags, I guess, and ask travellers to clean up after themselves, but what happens when they get to the station? No bins there either, since terrorists had a habit of using them. So last century. The modern brand of terror has moved from behind the bin to the AK-47, so I think we can put a bin back.
Oh, wail the cash-strapped train owners, why pay for a cleaner? This is outlay. That might mean our shareholders might get less on their dividends, we can’t allow that.
After all, the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh last thing on a Sunday is as quiet as St Kilda’s kirk, and it’s probably just the proletariat that’s travelling.
Well, sighs back the weary traveller, here’s the deal, Sparky. Your company charges me the same for the 9.28 at night as 7.25 in the morning. There is, as far as I know, no Moving Midden Train Discount Ticket.
Who pinched our carriage?
And the travelling day had started so well, with the Virgin 9.15 from Newcastle starting the journey with the announcement from the train guard that passengers with reserved seating in Coach C had probably realised by now that
Coach C was missing.
Newcastle stag dos, eh? What a bunch of lads. They’ll hide anything for laugh. At least it was clean.
Whine and wine
Oh, and nice touch, CrossCountry, by waiting just after the train has pulled out of the station to announce that there is no catering. Just as well some of us, chief, have one of those sneaky mini bottles of red wine secreted
in our travelling reticules.