God’s Wonderful Railwayman
By Parson Thru
“This a platform alteration. The 15:53 to Taunton will now be arriving at Platform 6. Platform 6 for the 15:53 service to Taunton.” The disembodied electronic voice broadcast its alert - Orwell-inspired.
We all shuffled across from Platform 8, some dragging luggage or wheeling bicycles. In truth, it wasn’t far. I could only make out a minor rearrangement of faces, bicycles and breasts – almost a mirror-image of its former self.
The clock ticked down. Trains dieseled away from neighbouring platforms in a haze of blue smoke and arrived, screeching, into others. Nothing arrived at Platform 6 but a rather scruffy pigeon, wearing a ring. Some fancier’s pride and joy, relegated to the public display of pigeon courtship, copulation and death that is a permanent feature of this Victorian artefact.
“This is a platform alteration.”
Oh no, minutes to go and we will all – young, old, mothers and cyclists – have to race each other without mercy down the subway to Platform 15, barely making it as the late-running train is ushered through to make up time.
“The 15:53 to Taunton will now be arriving at Platform 8. Platform 8 for the 15:53 service to Taunton.”
Oh well, could have been worse. Back across the platform we go.
“I apologise for the previous platform change.”
A real human.
“The 15:53 service to Taunton will be leaving from Platform 8. Apologies for any inconvenience. This is due to ineptitude in this office.”
Glances exchanged. Smiles flashed. A real human. I recognise his voice, but couldn’t put a face to it. One of God’s Wonderful Railwaymen (and women).
We shuffle back. This time the front loading begins as certain people begin to move down towards the end of the platform (the trains always overrun a little). The migration signals anticipation among the herd that arrival is imminent.
“This a platform alteration. The 15:53 to Taunton will now be arriving at Platform 6. Platform 6 for…”
The metallic voice is silenced in mid-flow.
“The 15:53 service to Taunton will be arriving at Platform 8. My apologies for the previous announcement. This error is entirely due to the utter ineptitude of this office.”
Sure enough, our experienced railwayman was right. The train – formed of four coaches – rumbled past and screeched to an ear-splitting stop alongside Platform 8.
I would like to meet this man. He should probably be given some award by a Saturday evening television host (I don’t know names any more) and rendered in bronze, raised onto a pedestal between the benches on Platform 8 (not 6), where amorous pigeons could coat him in shit.
I am sure that he would be far too modest to accept such recognition of his honesty and empathy with fellow souls, whose only wish is to ride home on the trains that he so diligently brings to the correct platform. He would probably want nothing more than to knock-off on time, or a couple of minutes early, and stop off for a well-earned pint at The Locomotive, before settling down to an evening with his family in front of the telly.
But what I fear is that the announcement was heard by a vigilant manager and reported through the appropriate chain to the Customer Relations Manager, who has no time for such subversive notions as honesty and empathy. Quite properly, in his role, he would adduce that such behaviour was inconsistent with the responsibilities of an employee in maintaining the Company’s corporate reputation. Such a failure of customer-facing professionalism might turn customers (not passengers, note) away and negatively impact on the revenue stream. Clearly, a disciplinary matter.
And so, what – for a few moments, at least – might have filled long-suffering passengers’ hearts with a small amount of hope, may bring the full force of the Company’s disciplinary process to bear on a man who had quite clearly seen them screwed around just once too often. I sincerely hope – in the name of humanity – that this is not the case.
God’s Wonderful Railwayman – diligent and caring example to us all – I salute you.