One of SouthWest Trains’ more regular tannoyances is the following piece of found poetry which has been dinned into my brain through constant repetition:
‘This is a Customer Announcement’ by S.W. Trains
You must buy a ticket
Before you get on one of our trains.
If you can not show a valid ticket when you are asked,
You may have to pay a penalty fare!
I’ve finally worked out exactly what it is that’s so irritating about this particular ditty. It’s not the fact that they introduced penalty fares a scarce three months after they first provided any way of buying a ticket at stations like Kew Bridge, although that does grate a bit. It’s not even the fact that it’s read out in the bullyingly cheerful tones of a nursery nurse announcing to her charges that it’s yummy broccoli for tea and everyone is going to eat it all up!, although that grates too. It’s not even the fact that it has got into my head like a brainworm and now I can’t shake it out. It’s the little ‘thank you’ at the end that really gets my goat.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate politeness, Lord knows I do. But this is not politeness, it’s completely meaningless. It’s a parody of politeness. Thank you for what? For listening? (I didn’t have much choice). For paying their penalty fares? (that’s a little presumptious of them). For not ripping their ever loving loudspeaker off the nearest lamp-post and throwing it under a passing Eurostar? (I would, but I can’t reach). It’s like those computer recorded announcements that say ‘I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause’, when there’s no ‘I’ to be sorry, and besides they imply they rather doubt the inconvenience.
The fact is, they drafted that little statement somewhere in SWT HQ, and then must have thought – hmm, that sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? We’re basically accusing our customers of stealing from us. How can we soften it up a little? I know, let’s stick an entirely meaningless and redundant ‘thank you’ on the end. And get a primary school teacher to read it out in a jolly patronising sort of tone. Yeah, that’ll work.
For once, I’m with the government on this one. You know those new no-smoking signs they’ve made us put up everywhere? There’s no mealy-mouthed ‘thank you for not smoking’ about those, is there? They say what they mean and don’t beat around the bush: It is illegal to smoke on these premises. SWT could do with a little more of that sort of clarity, and a little less talking down to its passengers. Or to this one, at least.