The power of the uniform
Travel to FOSDEM ran smoothly, with just the one glitch. But it bothers me, because it shouldn’t have happened. And if it can happen once, …
The Eurostar arrived back at St Pancras a couple of minutes late, but nothing serious. If I could get to Paddington in 25 minutes, I could get the 13:06 train; if not I’d have to wait another hour in London. Not a prospect I was keen on, especially since the sleet was falling (there had been snow crossing Kent). So I headed straight for the tube.
… where I was refused entry. My ticket was one issued by Eurostar, from the Eurostar terminal through to Plymouth. It was in a large size, so I couldn’t just use the automatic entry. And the dumb woman on the manual entry refused to recognise it!
A moment later, another passenger appears (presumably from the same Eurostar train as me) with a similar ticket. When she too is refused, she explains that she makes this journey regularly and it’s never a problem (well, why should it be?) Eventually she convinces the idiot to let her through. Since my ticket was the same, I assumed she’d now let me through too, but no, “I already told you, you have to go to …” well, I’m not quite sure where, but I think it must’ve been someone’s ticket office. So that’ll be queue up to be told I have my ticket and I should just go ahead and … be turned back again by the idiot in uniform.
Still trying to convince her, I pointed very clearly to where my ticket said “From LNDON ESTAR CIV”, and the little cross that denotes that a ticket includes a tube connection. “So where the hell is LNDON ESTAR CIV if it’s not here?”
At this point, I see another London Transport uniform: a little man has appeared alongside the moron. So I tried showing my ticket to him. He starts off with “That language you used to my colleague is not acceptable“, to which I agree but point out extreme provocation. He goes on to say that is assault on a member of staff – I guess that’s his training showing through. But to his credit, he takes my point, and finally lets me through.
I arrive at Paddington at 13:08 for a 13:06 train.
All of which leads me to wonder, what’s the point of having any ticket at all, if a person in uniform can just arbitrarily refuse it?
And next time I hear some horrifying figure for the number of assaults on London Underground staff, I shall know better than to take it seriously. I wonder how widely that particular nonsense extends? Perhaps it’s the norm amongst public-facing organisations, at least in the public sector?