Argh! Don’t panic!


Strange moment on the tube this morning. Crawling towards Victoria station, on the Victoria line, the intercom runs through its usual sunny mix of jingles, direct orders and disapproving pre-recorded rebukes. So we’ve moved down the carriage, tingling at the Sliding Doors potential offered by the rainbow of tube lines available just a few yards away. We’ve stood clear of the doors, kept our personal possessions with us at ALL times and understood that we’re held at a red signal because there’s a train already at the platform.

Then the pre-recorded lady’s back on again: ‘If there’s a police officer on the train, please make yourself known to the train operator.’ Pause. Several beats long. Glances exchanged – it’s rush hour. Then it’s the driver’s turn again. Mumbles, ‘Sorry, yeah, wrong message. Software problems.’ *Clunk*

Software problems? Pressed the wrong button, more like. Once I’d stood down my fight-or-flight response, I snorted a laugh, which probably scared my fellow passengers even more. What other messages have they got in their bag of pre-recorded tricks, that are just waiting to be mistakenly blurted? ‘Brace! Brace!’ maybe, or ‘Jesus! What was that?’

They should open it up. Instead of finding out the best place to alight for Tate Britain, I’d like to hear things like ‘Celebrity! Third carriage down!’ or ‘Oi! Large group of Spanish students! Don’t talk so loudly!’ or ‘Japanese teenagers! Walk faster!’ Or simply the classic, elegant ‘Looking good, Harriss.’ I might have to record that one myself and hack it into their system. How cool would that be? And in its defence, it’s at least as unhelpful as being told to make use of all the available space.


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