You would think that, if you were in charge of something called the ‘SouthWest Trains Customer Information Centre’, and the only thing that was displaying on the platform indicators was the legendary text ‘Owing to a fault no information can be displayed’, then your number one top priority would be getting that sorted out, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong, which is probably why you aren’t in charge of it*. For no, what the Customer Information Centre was doing was informing those passengers who had lost all sense of temperature that it was a bit nippy out and possibly slippery underfoot, and reminding them to take extra care. I knew this already because I’d had to thaw out my saddle again, but the sort of ‘information’ served up by the Information Centre is all of this ilk: not the stuff we don’t know (where the next train is going to, where it’s stopping at, how long it is and roughly when in the next century it’s likely to show up) because that would be difficult and complicated. Far, far easier and cheaper to pre-record a bunch of announcements telling us what we already know: it is slippy when it is icy underfoot and we should be careful. It’s hot in the summer and we should drink water. It’s disrupted when it snows and we should stay at home with the duvet over our head. Don’t leave cases and parcels unattended or we’ll cause a security scare. This isn’t not information so much as nagging.
In fact, perhaps they should take the concept a little further. Forget the SouthWest Trains Customer Information Centre, rebrand it as the SouthWest Trains Customer Nannying Centre and use it to nag us all a little further. ‘Did you put on a woolly vest this morning?’ ‘Have you brushed your teeth?’ ‘Did you wash behind your ears?’ ‘Show us your hands, they’re filthy, go back and clean under your nails this time’. And – my personal favourite, and I would in fact pay good money to have them blast this out on the platform tannoy – ‘pull up your trousers, boy! Nobody wants to see the colour of your pants’.
*Unless you actually are in charge of it and you’re reading this, in which case, can we have a word please?