Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Bl**dy stupid queueing arrangements and other Irritants of that Ilk

So ... you turn up in good time at Kings Cross Station or some similar resort of leisure and pleasure. You'd quite like to just go and find your seat on the train to Leeds and, you know, sit in it. Sounds like a good plan. Unfortunately that isn't going to work because the train isn't ready, because, well, it never is. Instead the nice LED sign says "Join QB" or something, so you do, and it all seems quite well-organized and reassuring, and they even have corridors marked on the floor to show where the queue goes, and this is largely observed, and it's all terribly British and organized.

This lasts right up to the moment when they put up the platform number. And in that very second the queue quite simply vanishes as if it had never been there, replaced by a ruthless stampede across the station concourse. Pity the poor, innocent naive traveller who was just standing there going "hello trees, hello sky' when this kicked off. They are probably still looking for bits of him.

And what, pray (I hear you enquire), has become of Queue B? It is gorn, quite simply gorn my dear.

Permit me a tiny digression. In the excellent science fiction film The Abyss there's a sequence wherein a ''water tentacle" explores the underwater drilling rig Deep Core. This tentacle consists only of water and is made coherent and controllable by the almost-magic technology of Them Down There in the said abyss, who are using it as a reconnaissance tool just as the humans have the remote mini-sub Little Geek. Anyway, it is a good special effect and clever and nice an ting and all is going swimmingly (aha) until the Navy Seals, led by our anti-hero Paranoid Depth-Psychosis Bonkers Boy, Lieutenant Tw*tbrains (this is not an entirely pro-military film, by the way), get a bit miffed about it, not having been trained to deal with peaceful aliens, sort of thing. Are you still following me, by the way? We get back to Kings Cross quite soon, l promise.

So the Navy, in a tizzy, slam the door on the tentacle, with immediate truncatory effect. Deprived of its link with - er - whatever, the water tentacle stops being magicaloid and reverts to being just water. One moment it's there and looks very real and structured, and the next moment: well, it's just gorn, with a bit of a sploosh.

All of which brings me back, as promised, to the lovely Kings Cross. Readers with massively enhanced perceptual skills may have seen this coming but please don't shout it out and wake up the others. Yes Colin, it's one of those sine nomines or perhaps a metallophone: the train queue is like the water tentacle, only a bit dryer and less tentacular. Platform announcement is to queue as door is to ... ? Very good Tamsin!

I don't want to get all hypertensive over this but it really is cr*p. Queueing was actually a Great British Skill, like making motorbicycles or moaning about the weather. The disgraceful anarchy which replaced the queue at Kings Cross is fine if you're mobile, fast and ruthless, but I hate to think what it's like for someone who is only two, one or none of those things, but has turned up in good time, queued in good faith, and has had some kind of expectation that some kind of fairness or civilization would prevail. I don't see why it has to be so cr*p. If they can't sort it out so the queue works fairly (and yes, I can see how this could be difficult but you'd not think it impossible, would you?) then maybe it would be better to abandon the lie which it embodies. Instead of "Join QB" the sign could say "we can't organize this place so just mill around randomly then do the 100m push'n'dash" which would at least keep expectations realistically low. At the moment what goes on there is not good, nice or civilized and is rather more worthy of Lieutenant Fargledbrains than of the rest of us, who are still meant to be a bit nicer than that.


Strawberryyog said...

Yes, it's rather a lot of Going On About The Abyss (GOATA perhaps?) compared with the Core Griping Activity. But, what the h*ll, I like The Abyss. I probably ought to try to write about it properly one day. Ramble drone zzzzz.

Strawberryyog said...

Why does the manner of getting on the train matter when you have a reserved seat anyway? Because by the time you get to it, there's already a teenage tourist with a huge rucksack there, or maybe a family of six. They'll probably move if you ask them nicely (though I have had someone argue with me about it) but it doesn't exactly help with the stress levels. The train company, though it makes you get a reservation, doesn't seem to give a monkey's about where you actually sit, and indeed frequently shifts the reservations around a bit, just to make sure you're paying attention. None of it is all that brilliantly good. So, yeah, if I had faith that the reservations worked I could maybe afford to be more relaxed about the queueing. Indeed if more things worked in general, if more of life did exactly what it says on the tin, then maybe I'd be a wonderfully calm person. Yeah right. At the moment though this "system", like so many others, rewards the bully and punishes the rule-abiding conformist. Nice.

Becca said...

I think they ought to let reservation-holders through first, give them a 20 minute head-start before they unleash the rest onto the train... gives you a fair chance of finding your seat and getting settled in it.

Strawberryyog said...

Yeah maybe something like that. But of course one thing we don't know is how many of the people in that ex-queue actually do have reservations. If (as I suspect) many of them do, then your problem is practically undiminished. And it's the organization (or lack thereof) of all this that bugs me. At the moment, they don't give the impression that they could organize me, a small bag of bananas, and a litre pack of yoghurt into a simple line then get it onto a train. Gah, I say, and gah again!!! :)

Lady Bracknell said...

Is that the echo of George Mikes I hear?

(I liked George Mikes.)

Blame Becca. She sent me a link.

Strawberryyog said...

Crikey, I don't know, and hello Lady B. I would be terribly flattered to think I did sound a bit like him as I always enjoyed his writing. Not quite a childhood hero for me on the scale of Cassandra (about whom I really ought to write one day) but certainly up there among the Good Writing Peoples.

Lady Bracknell said...

I hadn't thought about him in years. Must have been the queuing thing which reminded me.

I am now tempted to re-read his books.

Wonder whether they're still in print...?

Strawberryyog said...

Hmm dunno. Maybe. Or Ebayable, I bet. I lost my Cassandra book (or it fell apart or something) and I was able to replace it with an as-new hardback for about 46p ...