Idiots Of The Week: National Rail Enquiries, Celtic 'fans' and more
entry posted by Inquisitor at 18:30
edited on: 08/05/2005 19:06.
Me: I hate National Rail Enquiries.
Ticket seller: Oh, we do too.
--- Verbatim conversation at a ticket office, somewhere in Scotland, yesterday
So I've spent Christmas and New Year with my family, as you do, distributed hauls of R3 copies of Hero, The Bourne Supremacy etc. to my very pleased brothers, and the university term looms. I decide, because of commitments, to stay up north for as long a period as possible and head back on Saturday the 8th, i.e. yesterday.
As the weather's been kinda bad lately, I check up on First ScotRail's site about an hour before the train's meant to come in. This advises me that due to the weather situation, to only travel if necessary (my new term starts tomorrow) and to call 08457 48 49 50 for further information, not mentioning what the line actually is. I call it, and I get back a "Thank you for calling National Rail Enquiries..."
NRE, after keeping me waiting for a fairly long time, tell me (after much kerfuffle) that services on my line are suspended and a replacement bus service is running. They cannot, of course, tell me whether the bus service is even going to stop at my village railway station, and I can't call either the terminus or Glasgow stations directly, so I end up having to get lifted into town very quickly in order to catch said replacement bus service.
Of course, NRE wasn't exactly telling the truth, since the line was open for business and had been for some time. A big oops there. Thankfully, the ticket inspector was understanding when he accepted my ticket, technically invalid for the first part of the journey, after I explained NRE's cockup.
Other railway people were rather understanding, too, as when I asked for an address for which I could complain to them, and the ticket seller at Queen Street could only get me a phone number (0191 269 0305, fact fans...):
Ticket seller: "They're useless."
Which pretty much says it all.
NRE can get away with being absolutely useless because they're the only way, now, that a consumer can get information about the British railway network - the telephone numbers of local stations were made ex-directory some years ago, so all you see in the Phone Book is NRE. This is despite the fact that to man the phone lines at a rural terminus doesn't actually preclude you from doing other jobs at the same time. Of course, you need to have a fairly similar amount of staff employed to update the NRE system whenever, say, something like an extreme weather situation happens, since the people you actually speak to are dumb automatons in a call centre somewhere, but this doesn't figure to the bureaucrats and plutocrats that run the British railway network nowadays. If I had been able to call my local station, I'd have been able to pick up the train at the village station and I wouldn't have forgotten to pick up some of the DVDs I left behind. Grr.
Also see: out-of-hours GP phone numbers redirecting you to NHS Direct (or the Scottish version, NHS 24), a call-centre helpline run by nurses; banks making you call India instead of your local branch; etc. It's all the same thing; idiot cost-cutting that doesn't actually help anyone.
Admittedly, none of this was actually the fault of First ScotRail; they're supposed to refer everyone to NRE, since it's the only Official Source of this information. What wasn't the fault of First ScotRail either was the gang of supposed football 'fans' that got on at the last stop and were really, really loud, although they didn't exactly distinguish themselves by attempting to control the situation either. By really loud, I'm meaning "drowning out the music playing on my in-ear headphones" loud. They were drunk when they got on the train, drank a lot whilst on the train, and made the last fifteen minutes of my journey seem like time spent in the very depths of Hell. What's more, these were 'fans' of the depressingly boorish, pissed, fucked-up, sectarian (pretty sure I heard an IRA reference), and amazingly racist type ("There ain't no black on the Union Jack! Sieg Heil!") that demonises Scottish football - and this was the day before the Old Firm game, let me remind you. I almost wished my Rio Karma had a record function so I could have posted it here - this really was the kind of thing you never, ever wish to see or hear.
I lived in a Rangers area for a long period of time, really really hated the sectarian aspects of it, and not liking football wasn't a way out of it. I ended up holding back for a long time after the train stopped until I was pretty sure the supposed 'fans' had dispersed; this was sensible plan, so I recovered with the aid of a cup of coffee and set off for Edinburgh much more relieved.
And then I watched Jerry Springer: The Opera, or as it really is Jerry Springer: The Musical. Which was really funny, by the way: pretty much from the first pseudo-operatic aria ("chick with a dick") onward. It's also not blasphemous at all: the appearance of the diaper-fetishist from previously as Jesus (although not a diaper-fetishist Jesus) occurs simply because the whole 'Jesus vs. Satan' thing is a hallucination created by Springer's mind before he ends up actually dying, and the Virgin Mary herself doesn't sing the 'raped by an angel' line (it's the chorus, shown to be orchestrated by Satan), unlike what some of the media publicity would have had you believe. You can even take the ending to be a Christian redemptive message, if you like. The thing had so many warnings strewed on it - including Kirsty Wark before each act of the play, and BBC2 continuity - that it was almost impossible to miss it.
Oh, and the swearing? All the seven (not 280, that's counting the chorus) 'cunt's in the show are directed at the guy in the Christian religion to whom the term most deserves to be used - i.e., Satan - and in a single song, and the 'fuck' count doesn't even reach that of, say, Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs or Casino (all shown uncut by Channel Four.) Mediawatch should really employ someone's who's done at least, say, GCSE Maths to see whether their figures are actually right.
All in all, a storm in a teacup, don't you think? And the BBC have got a nice 1.7m viewer total out of it. Now, all we have to do is hope there won't be a Whitehouse v. Gay News repeat (especially since the BBC have more lawyers and money than Gay News did), with the so-called Christian Voice's private prosecution, and things should be well...
Bloggerheads has a nice series of articles on the neat little relationship between Mediawatch and the Daily Mail, and the JS:TO 'controversy' in general, here, here, here, here, and here; Mail Watch has a good piece too, here.