Saturday, 16 June 2012

Journey to Bristol

I went to Bristol yesterday. You'd think it'd be easy.

A week before, I tried to buy a ticket from the website from the local branch of Diarrhea Trains – Southern.

Their website is such a mess I gave up and tried Trainline, which I hate on cognition grounds.

I chose the tickets I wanted and went all the way through to the end of their process when a bank page cut in and said they wanted my extra password to give me added security. 3D Secure they call it. Or possibly VD

So I gave it to them and they said there was an error and I should try again later. I tried again later and got the same thing. I tried again later and got the same thing.

I rang the bank and they said it was nothing to do with them and I should contact Trainline. They said Trainline could authorise my transaction without going through the security if the difficulty remained. They implied there might a cognitive dysfunction with the train company. I was ready to believe that.

On the way home I noted that I could buy a ticket only a bit more expensive from the automatic machine at my station. It wouldn't let me travel until 9:30 but I considered it as an option to avoid dealing with airheads.

I tried Trainline again on last Saturday and got the same crap.

I went to the Trainline help website and sat through various crap where they guessed what the problem was and got it wrong; and then finally allowed me to describe the problem.

I received a message from an idiot who addressed me as “Dear Upton” and then proposed all the crap they had already proposed: I hadn't typed the card number correctly; I had the wrong address; it might be the wrong kind of card; the bank might not have authorised it; I was not the cardholder; the card might not be usable on the internet; I hadn't completed the details requested in the secure area of the system I mentioned; or I might not be enrolled.

Now as I had indicated I was beyond all so that this message was a variety of mental masturbation by a dunghead implying the problem might be that I am a dung head. The dunghead was sorry for the inconvenience caused, by the problem, not by them being a dunghead – I am sure they never entertained that idea.

Then it said “If none of the above reasons apply to you, please send us a screen shot of the error, so that we can investigate it further and give a quick resolution to you.

So I went through the whole bloody process again in order to generate a picture of what I had already told me. I didn't get a quick resolution. I didn't get a resolution at all.

They also said that I could phone them “and one of our associates will assist you in the most convenient manner.”

I was trying to avoid that

For any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.”


I heard back a few hours later. The operative did not understand the message any more than I did but said it had written to someone else and why didn't I phone someone else if I really wanted a train ticket.

Silence for days.

So I bought my tickets over the phone. It was agony. Everything had to be said three times. They told me how much they were enjoying the mission. They told me a bit about how trains worked.

I had to rest after the experience. Why can't they just do their jobs without talking shit?

They charged me a pound for the service.

Five days later I heard back

This chap was sorry to hear about my problems. He told me a bit about himself and said he had investigated my problem; and he had come to a conclusion.

Basically, he told me what I had told them 5 days before. He thought it was probably the Seedy Security System. He didn't know what the message meant either. And he denied it was anything to do with him.

He suggested I phone the bank. He said he could not bypass the security

He said this system “is now widely used on almost all online payment sites.” An interesting construction.

He suggested that if I didn't get any joy, I should contact him; I suppose that's so he can tell me that, as he told me, there is nothing he can do.

At my station, the ticket machine was mulfunctioning, as it's designed to, and it took me perhaps 15 minutes to get my tickets.

When I tried to enter the station, the gate rejected the tickets, but a human let me on. They know about their ticket machines.

Southern make all their machinery inhouse using excess bullshit, dried and shaped. It helps keep costs down.

But it's also why there aren't enough ticket machines. They shape ushabti managers out of the stuff; and they're not very good at strong bullshit; so the more the system spreads – or, as they say, is rolled out (like Jamie Oliver with a rolling pin) – the more it all breaks down for lack of material.

I had gone about an hour early because the previous day there had been delays of up to an hour due to a line problem no a track problem no we don't know what it is a line problem no a temporary delay; and I know from experience that none of the train companies can estimate how long anything takes. They assume their timetables are kept to and that one can transfer from platform to platform instantaneously. Apart from the innate stupidity and mental laziness of the staff, this is also because they are generally located tens of miles from the places they are supposedly administering. It is an extremely fashionable idiocy that this improves efficiency. Efficiency is deemed to be high when a majority of people have given up complaining.

My ticket worked perfectly well at Victoria and every where else. It only did not work at the station which issued it.

All went fairly well until I got to Victoria Underground Station where the gates were locked and a single nonce was explaining in a low voice why the gates were locked. The electorate stood obediently in a low herd in front of him so that newcomers could not  get near enough to hear him.

I crossed the road and went in the other entrance.

On the platform I found there were no circle line trains. After a while a nonce with a microphone said that Circle line trains were subject to delay. I thought: Tell us when we might expect one you skull full of stale giblets. But she did not. Nor did it occur to her, seemingly, that she was reading out useless messages. Not my job.

She said nothing about other ways of getting anywhere. Lots of confused foreigners who didn't seem to understand what she was saying. Unsurprisingly. She hardly opened her mouth.

I went to Earls Court on a Wimbledon train. We stopped a few times for the statutory Conjugal Break, which now has to be taken solo for security reasons. I understand that Friday's “Signalperson's Relationship Person” (Formerly “Signalmen's Wives”) was particularly stimulating and trains were stopping repeatedly all over the network.

At Earls Court the train I wanted was there but not flagged so I stood by the door until they displayed the destination and simultaneously broadcast “stand away” and closed the doors. They do have fun!

Incidentally, you had to know that to get to Paddington you have to get an Edgware Rd train; it doesn't occur to the company to explain that.

And so to Paddington.

I walked past my carriage because the person assembling the train doesn't know its alphabet. I walked back to Carriage D but found the door label was in the low seat numbers and my ticket was high. So I walked to the other end and boarded, where I found that the seat numbers ran in the other order and I was among the low numbers. So I walked back inside the carriage, climbing over my fellow Britons, few of whom understand that their bodies occupy space.

Free TV! so that you could for instance see a list of trains that were late but that you were not on. (You couldn't be on them because they were late... That may be a bit abstract for First Great Western)

I don't know what went wrong but the ticket checker was polite and friendly. He won't last long.

And so to Bristol where I was able to spend some hours with a sane person before going back.

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