Sunday, December 11, 2005

2005-11-05 Greenwich 018The annoyances continue.

First came discovering the text I thought was sent at 10.17 this morning was sent at 10.17 pm on Saturday (hmm, and why's my phone stopped making noises when it gets texts?). Which of course meant the tomorrow it was referring to was today, so I was already late.

Then came trying to work on the Victoria Line as the train shudders up the line. I have poor handwriting at the best of times (actually I've been told my writing looks gorgeous - from a distance). At one station the train stops, lets people off and then moves on. Except before it's gone a metre the brakes slam on and the doors spring open. Uh-oh.

We sit. We wait. We wait for a bit more. There's an announcement. The train is being held at the platform. We wait a bit more. Some people bail. I wait to find out why, and then I'll decide if I should find a District Line train.

More waiting. Another announcement. There's some request from the British Transport Police at Kings Cross to keep all the Victoria Line trains in stations. Hmm, not good, but not the-end-is-nigh-ish. I'll finish this bit of work and then leave if we still haven't moved.

There's an announcement on the platform, but it's just a routine service update and it doesn't seem to have noticed the Victoria Line isn't moving.

I finish the work. As I pack up, there's another announcement. It's the same as the driver's last message. I get off, and promptly get back on to check the tube map. It would have helped if I'd started my alternative route from the right station. Turns out this is Green Park, not Victoria.

I get off again, and as I'm walking the entire length of the platform, the train starts making that ready-to-leave shuddering noise, which I think is the compressors priming to release the brakes. I jump into the nearest carriage, then feel foolish for reacting to the compressors rather than the door-closing beeps.

But there's another announcement. Another service update. Another untrue "A good service is operating on all other lines". I get off again, as I realise the compressors were simply maintaining the pressure as the train had been stationary for a while.

Then into the tunnel which links to the Piccadilly Line. It's long, with a barrier down the middle, and a family out for a stroll walking three-abreast and hand in hand. Eventually I lose patience and use one of the breaks in the barrier to be terribly subversive and walk on the wrong side of the tunnel. I drop back in at the next break, then down the stairs at the end.

I have a moment's indecisiveness as I try to remember which is east and which west when I want to go north. I turn towards the right platform and see a stationary train with closed doors. It moves off. Drat.

If I'd know where I was going I would have caught it. If I hadn't got stuck behind the Sunday walkers I would have got it even if I hadn't know immediately which platform I wanted. If I'd been a bit more decisive earlier I would have been on it or the one before.

The next train is 4 minutes away. Sit, stew. Two more announcements. One is a service update which now mentions the immobile Victoria Line. The next then declares that it's all back to normal. Which means the train I was on has left, and I can't remember the spacing of the trains on a Sunday (not that I can remember it at any other time). So unless I can get to the Victoria Line, have time to wait for a train, and get back in case there isn't one, all in less than 3 minutes, means I'd probably better stick with the Piccadilly Line.

It comes, I get on the crowded train and get off at some unfamiliar station. It's about this time I realise I took the A-Z out of my bag because it was heavy. Such naivety.

But fortunately I catch a glimpse of something familiar and follow that. I get where I was supposed to be, an hour after I was meant to be there. Half an hour for me being inept, and another for getting on the train at the wrong time.

So then into a building to do work. An hour a half later I leave, wondering why it was necessary for me to be there at all, as I could have just emailed things.

Then back home to do more work. Except the barriers won't let me through (but neither can the two other people beside me get through). The woman manning them tells me my ticket is not valid and she tells me to use a machine to upgrade it. I try pointing that it worked two hours ago. She ignores me. I storm off in a huff, furious at being ignored, and also annoyed because I know the ticket machines only do full price tickets. Just like the website only does full price stuff (which is why if you ever see a "Why stand in line when you can buy online" poster burst spontaneously into flames, look out for the guy with excessively narrowed eyes. I want to buy online, but I can't).

I walk down the road to the next station. The staff there tell me need to renew my travelcard. I wait for age until someone appears in the ticket office. I buy a new travelcard (realising that somehow I've forgotten to factor in Christmas. Sod it. I'll just have to scurry round madly to make sure I get my money's worth).

I walk up to the barriers and it still won't let me through. A guy saunters over and tells me that it must be starting on the wrong date. I turn back to the ticket office, which is magically empty again. Turning round I discover the guy I just spoke to has disappeared as well.

Once again I leave a tube station immensely pissed off. I walk down to the next. Here I'm told that I've gone outside my zone. He doesn't seem to get that it's a brand new travelcard and so far I haven't been able to travel on it.

I walk to the next one. My account has been stopped. No explanation and no mention of what I can do about it. Now I'm really livid.

Once again I storm, beginning to wonder how long it would take me to walk the whole way. Heck, given the propensity of the system to stop when and wherever it feels like it, it might actually be quicker to walk the whole way everyday. In my mind the letter to the complaints department is already forming, along with the demand for refund and welling pride in my own potential self-sufficiency.

As I walk on, I relax a bit, even going so far as to apologise to a woman whose husband swung her into me. Which given I'd earlier sent a Korean tourist spiralling out into Charing Cross Road, as well as made contact with several pigeons who were playing chicken, and won a psychological war with a bus while walking up a bus lane (it was the utter TfL-ness of the thing that did it; it was like a red bus to a bore), probably means I was calming down a bit. While walking across the river, wondering how best to capture the misty towers of the Houses of Parliament (if you can get Big Ben between the two lines of trees lining the road, they all bunch as they progressively fade out), thereby wishing I had a camera which worked, and trying decide if the music from the merry-go-round is Gershwin (I know it, but I'm not sure who it is. Not traditional merry-go-round music anyway. There's a very staccato bit that's quite high, a bit sharp, and rather frantic, then it drops down a rapid double swoop).

So I calm down a bit, only to get annoyed once again by the horrendous design between the southern Golden Jubilee Bridge (Hungerford Footbridge) and the Shell Centre/Waterloo. Even better, it's currently a building site.

Then through the wannabe parkouristes (trying not react to their pathetic attempts at jumping over a railing. Oh, to be coordinated enough that I could be less pathetic and so deftly vault over their heads, then carry on walking as normal) and into the York Road end of Waterloo. I ask what the problem is at the ticket office. I'm still a liitle annoyed, but by now resignation is the overwhelming feeling.

Apparently I have -90p on my pre-pay. I'm about to protest, but then realise that if my travelcard ran out a few days ago, then it would eat away the pre-pay until that runs out too. Except I'm still a bit bemused, because if I enter a tube station without enough money on my card for a single, then surely it ought to say something? Like "you have insufficient funds; you cannot travel". Except it probably can't tell the difference between a tube station and any other type of station (why the hell not?), so maybe it decides that theoretically I have enough money for a single bus ticket, despite the fact that I can't get a bus underground.

So not only am I annoyed about the sheer incompetence of 80% of the stations sampled (and a far higher proportion of staff), but I'm also annoyed that I've been wasting money through using pre-pay instead of, um, pre-paid. I want to know why none of the machines I've used recently have flashed up the normal expires-soon message.

Basically I should go and back a fuss, but I suspect it'll take far too long just to make anyone understand what I'm taking about. I could write a letter to complain, assuming I can find TfL's complaints department, but once again it would take too long to be understood, and anyway, I've got to produce an obscene about of words on something else fairly soon (and I haven't started writing).

So basically I hate TfL. I hate the obscurity and ineffectiveness of the Oystercard system. I hate the station staff in Warren Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross stations. I quite like the guy Waterloo's York Road ticket office, but that's only comparatively.

And another reason I haven't written to TfL is that I'd want to ask questions of their pricing policy which I suspect no-one there would ever be able to answer.

Why does London have to be such a trade off? You come and think there are so many people. You come and are so lonely, never even knowing the people living downstairs except by the smell of their cooking). You come and are delighted by the density of intelligent people. You come and are aghast at the apparent stupidity of so of the rest.

But I've put far too many words into this, and not enough into the thing I should be doing, so I'd better stop (and I’ve just discovered that eighteen hundred words is less than I think it is, which is quite worryingly, because now I think “Oh, it’s not that bad”, when of course it still is).

Oh hell, it's dark outside.


Cheer up! (now its my turn to be mildly patronising)
Focus on the positives, London is a hell of a place to live - remember why you came there in the first place.
And the challenges you face everyday, no matter how big or small, only make you stronger...
Oh, ignore me. I've just got too much work to do, have realised it's not going to be good when it's finished, and know that stuff that I can no longer work on isn't good enough either.

And I still have all the rest of my life to sort out.

Look, I'm sure I'll go into happy bunny mode soon enough (probably in 21-something), but it's not happening right now.

Oh, and Christmas looms, and that's never good (I always make the mistake of being optimistic).

Anyway, I'd better go slap Excel a bit more (and what's it say about the other programme I'm using when it's easier to handle the data in Excel?).

But thanks for trying.
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