Thursday, 17 November 2011

17 November 2011. Letter 55

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 17/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: seven minutes.

Mark! Sue! There you are! (Well, not you, Sue - you're out in the fourth dimension somewhere, hurtling through space and time... is it like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Sue? Are you assembling noted historical figures from, um, history, for help with your next Communications Brainstorming Session? Are you mispronouncing them to amusing affect? I bet that's what's happening! I bet that's exactly what you're up to!)

Anyway. Mark! There you are! How are you? No, really. How are you?

Oh Mark! Mark! Don't say you're 'good'. Never say you're 'good'! Not unless you're asked about the state of your morality. I was not asking about your morality, Mark. I don't care if you're good, or evil, or even neutral (or Lawful Chaotic, or Chaotic Neutral or Neutral Good or whatever... depending on whether or not you're a 20-sided-dice-rolling ubernerd, of course). What you mean is you're well! Well, Mark (or unwell) - not good!

I'm sorry Mark. Do I sound crabby? Do I sound pedantic, pernickity and precious? Well, perhaps I do, a little. But it's the little things, isn't it? The little things that blight our lives, that gnaw away at our otherwise sunny existences.*

For example: there is a meeting room at work, Mark. And it has been renamed, no doubt by someone thinking "outside the envelope" and in a "blue sky environment" and after some deeply pointless and utterly money-wasting communications brainstorming session, the "Da Vinci Room".

C'est idiotique! as Leonardo Da Vinci himself exclaimed after the critics' initial wary assessment of his now famous Sunflowers painting. Das ist dumbkopf! as Leonardo Da Vinci himself remarked after his initial sketches for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were dismissed as "too full of cherubs" by Pope John Paul II. And he'd be right, too!

The point is, Mark - Da Vinci means: From Venice. It is not his name! It means nothing! It's just where he's from. It's just where he used to hang with the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael, in case you'd forgotten. Heroes in a half-shell!)

The Da Vinci Room? They mean the Leonardo Room, Mark. His name was Leonardo. Vinci was just his hood. (Vinci and that New York sewer with all the pizzas and the kung-fu rat and that hot TV journalist in the jumpsuit. What was her name? April? April O'Neil! Ah. April O'Neil, Mark! As a growing lad, with all the growths one expects, I had many an impure thought about April O'Neil! Even if she was a cartoon. Especially, maybe! After all - look at Betty Rubble. Look at She-Ra. Look at Jessica Rabbit. Look at Tank Girl! A girl can be a cartoon and still be totally hot, Mark. Although, on reflection, Tank Girl may be a little too fierce. But, y'know, after a drink, what the hell, right?)

The point is: if you're going to name a room after Leonardo Da Vinci, Mark, you call that room the Leonardo Room.

Even the writers of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles understood this, Mark. Is it too much to expect the people who rename meeting rooms at the most powerful media organisation in the world to understand it too?

Oh dear, I feel I'm ranting again. Am I ranting again? Do I rave? (As the vicar said to the DJ.) Are these quibbles of mine in any way important?

Well... yes. Because it's these seemingly minor examples of stupidity and ignorance that allow the greater, willful, malicious and cynical use of doublespeak by the Communications Departments of massive-profit making organisations to slip through unnoticed. Isn't it?

For example, Mark: there is a sign in Oxford train station at the moment. This sign claims - this sign trumpets! - that First Great Western has a 99.3 per cent reliability of service for trains between Oxford and Paddington. Ninety-nine point three per cent reliability, Mark! Impressive! Sounds like a pretty darn reliable service, that Oxford-Paddington service!

But then, surely, thought I, all of these letters I've written to you prove that to be an outright lie.

Of course it is. The Oxford-Paddington service is not reliable, Mark - we both know that. And so it turns out that, according to your apparent arbitrary rewriting of the rules of the English language, a scheduled, advertised service is only deemed unreliable if the train is cancelled.

That's not 'unreliable' Mark! That's 'non-existent'! Unreliable is when the train - and you may want to read this bit slowly - can not be relied on. To do what it's supposed to do. As in: get the people who've paid for tickets to the places it's supposed to in the time advertised. You can't just go redefining the word 'reliability' to suit the spin of your own statistics!

Or am I wrong? Do people ask after your moral stance rather than your health? Is Leonardo Da Vinci better referred to by his neighbourhood than his actual name? And does 99.3 per cent reliability mean that delayed trains don't actually count when trumpeting your status as Train Operator of the Year?

Oh! Look at the time! I've used up my allotted seven minutes of your day, Mark! And I didn't even have the chance to tell you about the super-exciting plans I've got for tomorrow! I'm going to be on TV, Mark! In widescreen! In high definition! In 3D! I bet you can't wait!

Au revoir!


*Terrible mixed metaphor, I know Mark. A moulinexed metaphor! This sort of thing would never happen with Sue around, would it?

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