Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 1/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: 23 minutes.
Mark! Sue! How do you do? What's the talk of the track? What's the rabbit on the railroads? What's firing up the First Great Western team today?
Is it the trains again, Mark? Those troublesome trains! Those confounded carriages and luckless locomotives! Why can't they do what they're supposed to do, Mark? What is their problem, Sue?
This week, friends, it seems that those trains are going for the full-house. The grand slam. The shanghai. They're having a tilt at the title! A shot at the champ! We've been delayed every day this week, my time-defying chums! We've trundled in tiredly and tardily over and over and over - just like, in fact, and in the words of cavernously-coated dance music odd-bods Hot Chip, a monkey with a miniature cymbal. Exactly like that!
It's almost as if it's getting deliberate now Mark! It could drive a man to paranoia, these constant delays! (Am I getting paranoid, Sue? Are they out to get me? I once phoned a paranoia hotline, you know - the man asked me: "how the hell did you get this number?" I once asked an assistant in Waterstones if they had any books on paranoia - she looked around and whispered: "they're behind you...")
Am I getting paranoid? It's almost as if you'd stopped trying to make the trains run on time and instead were channeling all of your considerable energies into making sure the trains run late!
What fresh madness would that be, Sue! What peculiar perversion of the natural order would that represent, Mark? Crazy! Crazy like a coconut! Like a paranoid coconut!
What on earth could inspire such silliness, Sue? Please don't tell me you're doing it on my account! Please don't tell me this has become a war of attrition - you with your shambolic service on one side, me with my ludicrous metaphors and admittedly peerless ability to pick uncannily apposite pop music lyrics at will to illustrate a point on the other? Please don't tell me you're trying to grind me down, wear me out, bore me into submission? Please don't let it be that you plan on making First Great Western trains so relentlessly, remorselessly, unremittingly behind schedule that I simply run out of steam? (Steam! See what I did there, Sue! Steam! Because trains used to run on steam! It's a train reference! Oh suit yourself, then.)
Mark, Sue: I beg of you - don't go to war! The first casualty of war is innocence! I don't want to lose my innocence, Sue! I want to stay pure and whole and untouched by the wandering hands and leery looks of cynicism! I don't want to become paranoid!
And, most of all, I don't want those other innocents to suffer, Mark. Those other passengers, the ones who don't write letters to you, the ones who simply sit there and silently seethe, day after day, delay after delay, as you waste their precious time. They don't deserve this, Mark! (I don't deserve it either, of course.)
Likewise your hardworking First Great Western staff - don't let them suffer the collateral damage of our correspondence, Sue! In all truthfulness, in all honesty, with my hand on my heart and my head in my hands (technically I realise that would make my head on my heart, but you know what I mean), I have no problem with the First Great Western staff I meet every day. In fact, lots of the ones I encounter are lovely. The lady with the drink trolley, the man who checks the tickets, a rather brilliant train manager chap called Patrick in the mornings who has the best, most laid-back voice ever. Another train manager man who likes to tell jokes about the Botley kebab van as we pull into Oxford. He's ace, Mark! Genuinely. I would be properly upset if he ever felt my complaints against you (and you too, Sue! Please don't think I'm forgetting you!) extended to disgruntlement with him. They don't. I like him. And he does his job brilliantly. Pretty much all of them do.
Even that Jo chick who runs your twitter feed - she's great, Sue! She consoled me when I failed to get Stone Roses tickets! She communicated, Sue! She communicated a dream! She's the one having to sit there taking the twitter-rap for your poor service... and she does it cheerfully. And did I mention she consoled me when I failed to get Stone Roses tickets? I'm a little bit in love with Jo who mans (womans?) your twitter feed. She's alright by me!
No, Mark. My problem is not with any of these people. The way I see it, the fault lies at the top. I'm right, aren't I? Of course I am!
So please don't make me paranoid, or I'll start feeling guilty for all these others, these innocents, these people just trying to get to work or get home from work, or do their jobs even as they are forced to become the unhappy representatives for the shortcomings of those paying their wages. And that wouldn't be nice for anyone, would it?
So. Anyway. Here we are again. Twenty-three minutes! On Tuesday morning, the train puttered into Paddington 23 minutes late. To be fair, we'd started out late. We began behind schedule. We left Oxford after our advertised time because, as our train manager informed us, we were late arriving into Oxford. Fair enough. And then we got stuck behind the old stopping train as far as Didcot. And then - well I'm not sure what happened after then, but we lost more time between Didcot and Reading. And then... oh, I can't be bothered, Mark. It was boring then and it's boring now. Suffice to say the whole boring business took 23 minutes longer than I'd paid for or was promised.
And also 23 minutes longer than any of the other people on that train had paid for or were promised. And also 23 minutes longer than any of the people working on that train were expecting. Nobody was happy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say we were unhappy. You made us unhappy, Mark! That's not nice, is it?
Oh dear. In the space of a mere 1000 words or so you've made me both paranoid and unhappy! (And late for work.) We need to address this situation! We need some good news and we need some fast!
I know! What could be better than the beginning of a new life? What could be more wondrous than the birth of a baby? And I read in my Super Soaraway today, Sue, that our dear old Hugh Grant, bumbling actor extraordinaire and the man known in thespian circles as "the chameleon" for his uncanny ability to transform himself into any role demanded, has become a proud Daddy again! How lovely, Mark! How super, Sue! (I have no idea why he didn't shout the news from the rooftops the moment he found out he'd impregnated his neighbour, Mark, but there you go. Different strokes and all that. There's nowt so queer as acting folk.)
And you know what's even better? It only turns out the little Grantling is the seven billionth child on the planet!* The Golden Child who will rescue humanity from the grip of the Matrix! Hoopla!
That reminds me: I'll tell you what I don't understand, Sue. (Correction: I'll tell you one of the many thousands of things I don't understand.) All this fuss over the fact there's now seven billion of us. It should be a good thing, right? The more the merrier! The way I see it, Mark, I like people, people are brilliant - I'm a person myself! And therefore, I want there to be more people! Every new person born is a victory for the human race, right? Let's get as many people on this here planet as possible! Let's make the human race the best race there is!
I mean, I'd prefer it if there were a few less people on my train most evenings, Mark, obviously - but that's not the people's fault, is it? You can't blame overcrowding on the fact that there are more people about. You have to blame it on the fact the trains aren't big enough or fast enough or frequent enough to cope with all the people. Don't blame the people, Mark! Blame the service! Or if you must blame someone, blame the man running the service, right?
Right! Great! Hey, guess what? I'm in a good mood again! Alright! Mark, Sue: you two have a great day now - and I'll see you again tomorrow!
*This may not strictly be true. But then, who's actually counting? And just so long as someone rescues humanity from the Matrix, then I'm really not bothered whether it's the seven billionth child or not, to be honest.