Conversations with my Mother (in Law)

I don’t know. Other people seem to be able to have perfectly normal conversations in pubs. You know, discussing the football, or Big Brother, or whether David Cameron really is a twerp or just comes across that way, or the implication of Wittgenstein’s Private Language argument on the semiotics of modern cultural theory; ordinary stuff. But we have conversations that go like this:

‘So you just use the oyster card and it’s guaranteed cheaper than buying individual tickets.’
‘How about one-day travel cards?’
‘Well, you see, the oyster is capped so if you use it enough in one day that you would have been better off buying the travel card it will just stop deducting from your balance.’
‘So travel after that is free?’
‘Yes, unless you go out of the zones you were travelling in, then it will recalculate what the travel card for that zone should have been … but basically, yes.’
‘So the oyster card is always cheaper or the same as the one day travel card?’
‘Most of the time it is, but not if you take the overground trains. You can’t use the oyster on them so if you travel almost up to the limit on your oyster and then get on the overground train and have to buy a ticket for that, then you would have been better off just getting a travelcard in the first place. But you probably won’t want to use those trains.’
‘What about if we get the train to Dover?’
‘Well, Dover’s outside the zone 6, so you wouldn’t be able to get there on a travelcard anyway – although you can buy your ticket from the boundary of the travelcard if you already have one, which makes it cheaper …’

… and so on and so on. You see, as part of their ‘welcome to London’ pack (to accompany the anti-drought umbrellas) we’d got our visitors a couple of pre-pay oyster cards and we were now trying to explain the intricacies of the Oyster system to them. Next time I’ll probably just let any visitors we have figure it out for themselves – semiotics and the private language argument would have been a breeze in comparison.  How on earth have we managed to end up with a public transport payment system that requires a PhD and an accounting qualification to understand? Answers on a postcard please*

* you may continue on a separate sheet if necessary.

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2 responses to “Conversations with my Mother (in Law)

  1. More to the point, how did we end up with a transport system that can track our every move around that system? And why would we want such a thing?
    I realise that an unregistered pre-pay doesn’t have any way to link the data to the person using it, but it’s only a metter of time, I fear, before they make registration mandatory. Though why they’d actually want to, I don’t quite understand.
    I’m pleased to say that I’ve avoided Oyster so far, and will continue to do so for as long as I can.

  2. I know what you mean, although I’ve taken the devil’s shilling and gone for the convenience & speed of oyster. Our visitors were a bit disconcerted about that aspect of it too…

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