Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 21.48 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 19/7/11. Amount of my day wasted: 11 minutes.
How the devil are you? Well I hope, Mark? In the pink, Sue? Good, good. I gather you had a rough night of it last night. I hear that all First Great Western services out of Paddington yesterday evening were - not to put too fine a point on it - up the spout. Down the swannee. Round the u-bend. That they were, as my four-year-old likes to express it, total toilet. Nothing moved, as I understand it, for hours.
I got tweets about it, Mark! I was emailed, instant-messaged, texted and telephoned, Sue! As a Director of Communications, you would have been beside yourself at all the communicating going down. It was a veritable communi-fest! Communipalooza! Communibury!
And you know what all those communications were, er, communicating? They were all saying that - you'll love this - they were all saying that the one solitary bright point in the whole sorry, shoddy, amateurish excuse for a business you run, was that I'd be delayed too... and so would have to write to you again! The cheek of it, Mark! These people - your customers, my readers - they're beginning to see your wasting of my time as a good thing! They may even be beginning to hope the trains I catch are delayed... so that I can waste your time in return!
Sue: I'm almost speechless at the thought. (You should sympathise with that, Sue. Or empathise. Or both. After all: you've clearly been rendered speechless for weeks now. Have I made you speechless, Sue? Have I struck you dumb? Taken your breath away? Am I the cat that caught the Director of Communications' tongue? Or are you just shy? Or - and I can scarcely believe this to be true - are you actually choosing not to communicate with me? That wouldn't do would it, Sue? It's your job to communicate with me! I'm your customer! I am your raison d'etre! Without me, and all the other FGW customers, Sue, you're redundant. Or have I got your job entirely wrong? Tell me, Sue. Communicate!)
Where was I? Ah, yes. Almost speechless at the thought. Because, and this is the kicker, it raises the intriguing possibility that this project of mine has a fundamental flaw at its very heart. Surely the point is for us all to improve your service? Or at least make you do your job better? And not to actually revel in your incompetence?
That, Mark, would make all this decidedly Pyrrhic. A Pyrrhic victory. Do you know what a Pyrrhic victory is? (Of course you do, Mark - you must have benefited from a classical education. What was it? Rugby? Stowe? Then... St Andrews? Cambridge?) How about you, Sue? Did you enjoy such a rarified upbringing? Or have you worked your way up from nothing? Communicated your way out of the mean streets? Was it a case of sport and communications being the only legal options for a kid from the wrong side of the tracks?
Anyway Sue, no shame in that. Pyrrhic victories. Let me explain. Once upon a time, in a country a long, long way away (well, Greece) there was a king called Pyrrhus. As Ancient Greek kings go, he was pretty tasty. Gave the emergent Roman Empire a bit of a spanking on more than one occasion. But there was a flaw, Sue. Old Pyrrhus... he was a bit over-keen. The way he saw it, winning was all that mattered. Victory had to be pursued - no matter what the cost. Until, after one particularly bloody encounter at a place called Heraclea, his defeat of the Romans was so absolute that it ended up costing him his whole army too. He won, Sue... but he also kind of lost. And a certain Mr Plutarch, who was a leading tabloid scribe of the day, coined the term "Pyrrhic victory" to describe that peculiar kind of victory that comes at a prohibitive cost to the victor.
Interesting, eh? Fascinating, huh? But also... eye-opening. A Pyrrhic victory. Are my letters Pyrrhic victories? It gives me pause, Mark. Oooh, and it makes me wonder, Sue, as Robert Plant (almost) put it. Am I the real loser here? Twicefold? First for giving you so much money for such pitiful service every day, and then second for wasting my own time in order to waste your time writing about it for the dubious pleasure of others who are now hoping for your service to get even worse so that the whole sorry cycle can continue? And is that actually threefold?
Possibly. I'd welcome your thoughts.
But on the other hand... to hell with it. I'm with Pyrrhus.
Oh - and in case you're concerned... I missed all the shenanigans at Paddington last night. I was working late. By the time I got my train home we were only running a middling 11 minutes late. Aren't I the lucky one, Mark!
Until next time
PS - Oops! was this letter longer than my allotted 11 minutes? Feel free to complain about that, Sue!