Listen, I don’t want to have to get the bus to work – that would be ridiculous – but I’ve started to despise London Midland so much that I think I’ll soon be able to run to the office, some eight miles from home, in record speed, powered simply by my own anger.
Yes, I was rather chuffed when they recently sent us all five free tickets because of service disruption at the tail end of last year. I thought that perhaps they weren’t so bad. It was like I’d won the Daybreak competition or something – I was almost shaking with excitement. It even felt, for a few seconds, that my £650 season ticket wasn’t such a poor investment after all. But as I read their apologetic letter, the experience was somewhat marred by their suggestion that I might use these tickets, valid for travel across their service, for my daily commute. Oh yes, what a good idea, London Midland. Never mind a trip to Bristol, London or even Liverpool – why, it makes good economic sense to use them for what should be a nine minute ride to work when I already own a bleeding season ticket. I’m surprised the letter didn’t suggest that it would be a nice gesture if I sent them a bit more of my hard earned cash to help share the burden of their costly public relations exercise.
I also find myself tensing up when they hold their ‘meet our/the managers’ sessions outside Snow Hill Station during rush hour, like people have time to stand and whine at them about poor service – we’re already all late for work. Our train was bloody delayed. Yes, I know it’s all about senior management visibility and listening and responding to their customers’ needs. I get that. But here’s an idea – instead of getting them to stand around in their fleece jackets and ties, all earnest and caring – get them trained up as drivers so they can step in when unprecedented staff shortages means we’re all stood about on platforms like idiots. I don’t want to chat to the bosses – I want the electronic boards to tell the truth. My heart sinks when I watch it tick over from a specified late arrival time, to just ‘delayed’ and then, more often than not, ‘cancelled’.
I’ve had to share taxis with complete strangers into the city centre as a result of these shenanigans. One of the women who I once travelled with still speaks to me. I don’t want to be her friend. London Midland has forced us together. She even stopped me in Tesco the other week for a chat. It’s unacceptable.
I quite like the tone of their company tweets, although they’ve stopped responding to me in recent months. I think it was when I said that I had stuck two fingers up to one of their trains as I sped by on a Virgin Train to London. Or it might have been my admittance that I often relieve myself (front bum only) – and flush – while stationary at Snow Hill Station. There are no signs to suggest that it’s not allowed, but I have a vague recollection that perhaps it’s illegal. A bit like how I believe it’s possibly also against the law to touch guide dogs. And shoplift. They did respond once when I suggested I might make a claim for maintenance after believing (incorrectly, thank goodness) that I had been impregnated on my way to work one morning because the train was so packed with commuters that I thought I had been entered by the man standing behind me. They said they had their own children to raise so wouldn’t be able to help out. I understood and accepted that.
I even used to like the conductor who’d jolly up the journey by sharing random facts on his little tannoy system – “Did you know that today in 1864, union troops captured Fort Derussy in the American Civil War?”. I’d smile and roll my eyes at fellow commuters, who smiled back. What a character, eh? He’s a sort, ain’t he? He brightened up our day ever so slightly.
Nowadays, when he starts bleating on, clearly loving the sound of his own voice, I only feel burning hatred, believing that he should only use the system to beg for forgiveness on behalf of his organisation. I have to stop myself shouting “SHUT THE FUCK UP” by putting my hand over my mouth.
In an attempt to stick it to the big man, I’ll sometimes travel to the next stop which is out of my permitted zone. I sit there, hoping that the conductor approaches and asks to see my ticket, so that it affords me the opportunity to launch into a tirade of abuse about his audacity to challenge me in light of what his company gets up to on an almost daily basis. It would be audible to other travellers, who’d then give me a standing ovation. They’d hold me aloft, and carry me through the carriages, cheering as they gently placed me down at Olton. Never mind that I’d have to walk back to Acocks Green to collect my car. I could get the next train back there. I’ve got five free tickets to use. Who’s laughing now, London Midland? Who’s laughing now? Oh, it’s still you.