Tuesday, 4 October 2011

4 October 2011. Letter 37

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 04/10/11. Amount of my day wasted: 20 minutes.

Marky Mark and Sue - where are you? We've got some work to do now!

Your silence, Mark... it's killing me. (Sue: you've been on holiday, fair dos, and, let's be honest, you never have been the most voluble of correspondents, have you? You're a proponent of the "less is more" style of Communications, right? Stealth communications, Sue!) But Mark, wherefore art thou? I miss you, dude! I miss your letters! Here I am, pouring my heart and soul into oh-so-carefully constructed paragraphs, here I am, sweating over sentences, worrying over every ellipses, stressing over every semicolon... here I am, breathless with anticipation of a reply, my heart leaping with every new "ping!" in my inbox... and still you don't write back.

Have you forgotten about me, Mark? Have you grown weary of what we had, Sue? You're breaking my heart, guys! First you waste my time - regularly, relentlessly, remorselessly - and now you break my heart. Literally. (Not literally, Sue. Of course you've not literally broken my heart. But I am, nonetheless, shattered. I'm literally shattered.)

It's also rather rude, is it not? Especially when your self-professed commitment to customer satisfaction and striving to make First Great Western the best possible train company you can did include a promise to write back to me every time I wrote to you. What's happened to that promise, Mark? Don't you want to be the best any more? Don't you want to strive to improve the First Great Western customer "experience"? Don't you think I'm worth the bother? Don't you think, as a customer, as the poor sap who pays your wages, my complaints are worthy of your attention?

But perhaps I'm being harsh. Am I being harsh, Mark? Sorry if I'm being harsh! Perhaps it's not your fault. Perhaps your email is up the Swannee? Perhaps the world wide web is congested? Perhaps the internets are experiencing problems with Network Rail? (They seem to be to blame for just about everything else you're not doing right.)

Perhaps, perhaps. As Mark "Lawro" Lawrenson said: The world is full of perhaps, Gary.

Let us move on, Mark. I'm nothing if not a magnanimous man, a forgiving sort of cove, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, assume your silence is something entirely out of your control, take it that you plan to write back to me very soon, and move on. Let us speak no more of this sorry business, Mark!

Besides: I've got a whole new delay to tell you about! It's Tuesday morning as I write, Sue: the weather is breaking, the rough October winds are gathering pace, the boughs are shivering, the leaves are falling, autumn is coming... and I'm sitting in Coach C of a stationary train, looking at the empty fields around Didcot Parkway station and dreaming of being somewhere else.

Actually, that's not strictly true. I'm not dreaming of being somewhere else at all. I'm dreaming of the Quantity Theory of Everything.

Have I told you about the Quantity Theory of Everything? It's a good theory, Mark! It's a humdinger! It's totally going into that Great Important 21st Century British Novel I'm so close to getting round to beginning to think about writing (in truth, Sue, I'm just waiting for the right deal to come along, you know what I mean? The book is all there, fully-formed in my head, wriggling and jiggling and tickling inside me, waiting to be written... but I'm just waiting for the deal, y'know? I ain't doing it for art, Sue! What do you take me for?)

Anyway: the Quantity Theory of Everything! We've got 20 minutes to waste together, Mark: plenty of time to fill you in proper-style. What is it? It's Buddhism meets mathematics, Mark! It's Buddhamatics! And it all began when I briefly and insanely gave up smoking a few years back.

Mark: a few years back, I briefly and insanely gave up smoking. Before then, you should know, I was a committed, dedicated smoker. I smoked for England, Mark! I smoked because it's cool, because it's big and it's clever and because it made me loads of friends. I also smoked because, uncannily, I looked exactly like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause when I smoked. (I also looked like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, and, oddly, like John Travolta in Grease when I smoked.) I also drank a fair bit (I drank because it's also cool, big, clever, etc... and because I looked exactly like Jeff Bridges in the Big Lebowski when I drank. And John Belushi in Animal House. And Mickey Rourke in Barfly.)

But that was pretty much the extent of my vices, Mark. I smoked a lot, I drank a fair bit, and, barring a bit of action every Grand National, I rarely gambled.

And then I gave up smoking.

And you know what happened? I started drinking more! And then I started gambling! I got into online poker! I gave up smoking and suddenly there I was, of an evening or a weekend, looking for the Full House, bluffing and raising and chasing the big blind! It was as if the reduction in one vice meant a corresponding increase in all my other vices! Vice finds its own level, Mark! Cut down on one, and the rest will take up the slack. Vice finds its own level: we all need our own personal amount of vice in our lives. And you cannot escape your vice level, Mark. It's a level you were born with. You just have to find the right combination of vices to make it manageable.

You know what I called this theory, Mark? I called it the Quantity Theory of Vice. And it works. When I started smoking again, I eased off on the Online Poker. My vice levels auto-corrected! (I also looked a great deal cooler again.) These days I don't smoke quite as much as I used to, I drink quite a lot more, and I don't gamble at all. My vice levels have leveled out again.

Not bad, eh? Mathematics and Buddhism! (And vice.) All in one handy code for living!

I'm starting to apply this theory to everything, Mark. The Quantity Theory of Everything. Everything, I've decided, finds its own level. Like water. Like vice. You can move it about... but you can never get rid completely. Think of a subject, Mark - I guarantee it works. Think of a subject, any subject. What's on your mind?

What's that you say? Train delays? The Quantity Theory of Train Delays? Well that would say that there is a certain amount of delays that are an inevitability for any train franchise - and that no matter what you try to do, how you try to cope with them, those delays will happen somewhere and somehow. Eliminate one delay-causing issue in one place, and another will have to pop up somewhere else. The Quantity Theory of Train Delays would say that we're essentially helpless in the face of our train delays, Mark! It would say that the delays will happen, one way or another, no matter what we do. It would say that train delays find their own level!

What do you think, Mark? Is it a good theory? Do you believe in the Quantity Theory of Train Delays?

And more importantly, will the Quantity Theory of Everything fly? Will it help make the Great Important 21st Century British Novel as good a book as (for example) Tuesday's Child by Louise Bagshawe (now Mensch)? Could it? Could it really? As good as that? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Or failing that you could just write back and give me your theories on why your trains are so often delayed.

Au revoir!


1 comment:

  1. Still no reply...? tsk, tsk - I hope Mark doesn't think you'll just get bored and go away. I hope you don't get bored and just go away. This is important stuff and Mark should be using this as a forum to talk directly to his customers through you. You represent all of us - how many followers/hits are you seeing now ? If you can keep up the letter effort Dom I'm going to step up my marketing efforts, I've been telling people about the blog but I might just get a roll of stickers printed......