Now There’s a Thing

As a commuter I’m pretty used to being apologised to. Usually by a computer that’s been programmed to do so, which doesn’t really count, or a pre-recorded announcement grudgingly regretting any inconvenience which may have been caused. Getting apologised to is better than not getting apologised to, as SouthWest Trains demonstrated this morning by silently cancelling one train and then running the next one late, but it’s still fairly routine. But when were you last actually thanked, as a commuter, and not by your fellow passengers but by the staff?

I was heading for the wilds of zone 5 – Sidcup, as it happens – and on what turned out to be a short formation train. By London Bridge the passengers getting on were being forced to play sardines to an Olympic standard and things were getting uncomfortably packed. At this point, the train driver started chiming in: ‘If you’ve got a bag on the seat, take it off and ask the nice stranger to sit next to you,’ he suggested, then, ‘come on, I know there’s some room in there, just squeeze up and let two or three more people on,’  and, finally, as the pips went, ‘Breathe in everybody!’ so the doors could close. Something told me he wasn’t following the train-company approved official announcement script. As we trundled away he apologised for the short train and announced he was switching the heating off – which was thoughtful, but not out of the ordinary. But then at Hither Green when the crowding began to ease and we all breathed out again he came on the tannoy again to say goodbye to the departing passengers and thank us all for our efforts in getting everyone on board. ‘You’re the best bunch of passengers I’ve had all day,’ he said. ‘And I mean that.’ Everyone grinned.

And do you know, as though to live up to his words, everyone started arguing over the remaining seats: ‘There’s a seat free here, do you want it?’ – ‘No, you sit down, I’m only going one stop.’ – ‘no, please, sit down, I’ll just get out of your way’… Amazing what a heartfelt thank you can do to a train full of commuters.

Or maybe it was just Sidcup. Sidcup was very strange. Sidcup was stranger than Erith. There may well be more tales from Sidcup as space and time permit. Watch this space.


11 responses to “Now There’s a Thing

  1. It sounds so unreal! Maybe you commuted into a parallel world.

    So what was so strange about Sidcup?

  2. Sidcup is tumbleweed town …

    I concur that it’s amazing what a good effect a bit of good humour can have on a packed train, though. Yesterday, having stood on a windswept, rainy platform for about 40 minutes (for what should be 10-minute train journey), and having let two trains go through as there was no chance at all of getting on, I shoehorned myself onto the 3rd train, followed by many more anxious and very late travellers. One young bloke called cheerily: “Can you all shove a bit further down for us, please? There’s about a hundred people on the platform.” Then he chuckled and said “And we’re all getting on!”

    He raised a smile from everyone AND managed to persuade people to shove up a bit … Bless.

  3. awwwwwwwwwwww how cute

    more power to train/tube/bus drivers like that !

  4. My DLR driver this morning said after the usual “Don’t forget your things on the train” bit “And try having a good day at work. If that’s possible”. Got everyone chuckling.

  5. Sidcup and Erith sound like an elderly couple. “Sidcup, dear, put the kettle on will you.” “Certainly Erith my love”.

  6. Beate – I thought the DLR didn’t have drivers? Or do they just have someone there to make announcements?

    Flighty – I may expand further. There was the Incident of the Coke Machine, for instance

    Menace – If Erith was a person s/he’d have LOVE and HATE tattood on her knuckles.

    Pog and Hannah – agreed, a bit of niceness goes a long way. Hopefully not too long, though or I’d have to find something else to blog about

  7. Oh yes the DLR have drivers, I see them often enough sitting in the top row of a carriage pressing buttons. They don’t have to be in the first carriage though, and the DLR can be driven more or less automatically, but you have to have someone on board in case the train gets once again stuck in the Bank tunnel or a door doesn’t shut. And sometimes they even do ticket controls, as quite a few DLR stations do not have ticket barriers. In my opinion the DRL are one of the best transport systems London has, but even they aren’t without faults.

  8. What a sweet driver why can’t everyone be like that?

  9. Beate – ah, you learn something new every day. I remember when the DLR first launched and everyone laughed at it. They’re probably just jealous now.

    Della – maybe they need to up the prozac dosage in the water?

  10. Good plan disgruntled!

  11. I think so – although they may have been overdoing it in Sidcup…

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