I am rather concerned that I appear to have reached a vintage known to all as “The Victor Meldrew Stage”.
Let me explain,
Once in every short while I take the 8.11 from Leeds to Birmingham, its a popular service, usually starting in Edinburgh and terminating in Plymouth so it runs the length of the country on an hourly service, new-ish carriages, a very modern seat numbering system with information panels above each seat advising you whether its booked and for which parts of the journey its booked for, you get a ticket with your seat number on and the seat (in theory) should be vacant and awaiting your arse when you board.
Thats the theory anyway, and for over a year its worked perfectly well as the five carriage (count them, five) train has pulled into Leeds promptly at 8.11 I have always been able to dump my bags, find my seat and settle down for the two hour journey to Birmingham, a very pleasant way to travel although you could easily feed a family of four for a week on the cost of the ticket, but still.
Recently though the cheapskate bastards at Cross Country Trains made a management decision to reduce the number of carriages on that service from five to three, presumably the accounting figures showed that three carriages would easily cope with the demand on the 8.11 from Leeds, from personal experience and evidence evidenced on that service I somehow doubt it though.
What I do suspect is that some bright spark in the accounting office at Cross Country Trains came up with a bright idea more suited to Alan Sugar’s ridiculous “The Apprentice” programme, “I know how to make more money, put fewer carriages on the trains but still sell the same number of seats” and the management and shareholders all gathered around his desk, slapped him on the back, gave him a cigar and said “This boy will go far”
And so thats what they do, now when you board the 8.11 you notice immediately that instead of being an oasis of calm and order there appears to be an element of mad panic and the slight stench of overcrowding as people scramble for the few vacant seats remaining, discussions over claimed seats break out here and there, “Excuse me but you appear to be sitting in my seat”, “No actually I have a ticket for this seat”, “Well so do I”, that sort of discussion.
Last month a rather pompous woman grabbed the train manager (they don’t call themselves guards any more) and insisted that he give her an address to complain to as she’d had to stand by the luggage racks for most of her journey, he insisted that she complain and couldn’t give her enough email addresses and managers names to complain to, then he started rambling on at her about how he complained to his manager at the end of every shift about overcrowding and multiple selling of reserved seats and soon everyone in the carriage got the impression that he was more pissed off than the rather pompous woman.
On Monday I boarded the train to the usual chaos, dumped my baggage on the luggage rack, walked down to where my seat was despite it being very obvious that the carriage was fully seated, there was a young woman sitting in my reserved seat and I thought about asking her to move but then in that “Aw fuck it” attitude part of my brain I changed my mind and walked back up to the luggage rack and leaned on it, standing up to Birmingham again, what the hell.
The train manager soon appeared to check everyone’s ticket and the “Aw fuck it” part of my brain decided to adopt the “I’m properly pissed off, me” attitude to him, I wasn’t really, I have reached the phase of life where actually I don’t care about anything any more, for most situations in life the standard response from me is “Yeah, I did that once” and I journey on, as long as I can paint I don’t care where I am or what happens any longer.
“Tickets please” he asked
I didn’t look up from my book, merely held the tickets in one hand so that he had to reach over and take them from me, he stamped the tickets and then noticed that I’d given him the seat reservation too.
“Don’t you want your seat ?” he asked
In my best, very sarcastic, Victor Meldrew voice I informed him that someone else was sat in it.
“I’ll move them for you” he offered, he was a nice man really but he needed to get the point.
“She has a reservation for the same seat”, that was spoke with a VERY scornful attitude, then I returned to my book
He stood there for a few seconds not knowing what to do or say next, then moved on, point made, maybe it went in his report at the end of his shift.
Then we arrived in Sheffield, some people got off, so I nicked someone else’s reserved seat.