Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 29/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: seven minutes.
Good morning Mark! How do you do, Sue?
Are you bearing up? Are you struggling through? Good. Great! Well done! Best foot forward! On the double! From the top! Big smile, backs straight, tummies in, chests out, ready for the curtain to go up on another glorious day. Hear the greasepaint, Mark! Smell the crowd, Sue! They smell good, don’t they? I love the smell of a crowd in the morning: it smells like… victory!
The crowd in the evening, on the other hand… oh dear, Sue. The crowd in the evening – the crowd on your trains I mean, the crowd I have to share your trains with, shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek, arms and legs entwined, a tangle of protesting limbs and wrinkled noses…I’m not so keen on the smell of that crowd. They don’t smell like victory.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! We’re not here to discuss the disgusting evening trains! Not today! We’re here to talk of the tardy morning trains!
Mark! Sue! I thought we had a deal! I thought we’d sorted all this silliness out! After your big announcement, I mean. After the exceptional mood you put me in yesterday, Mark. After the smile you put on my face, Sue! I thought that everything was alright! No more delays to me, no more letters to you. No more wasting of my time, no more wasting of yours.
I thought our symbiotic bond had been severed! I thought the umbilical cord of incompetence and childishness had been snipped! (I’m the childish one, Mark, I’m happy to admit that. Or perhaps childlike? Which is it, Sue? Childish for getting my kicks out of such a petty and puerile means of revenge every day… or childlike for actually expecting the trains to run on time in the first place? Childlike for naively expecting you to provide me with the service I’m paying for? Childish or childlike? It’s an interesting etymological* exercise, is it not?)
I thought, in short, that it was over. I thought you were going to make your train service, if not an enjoyable experience, at least something approximating a civilised one. I thought that, finally, after all these months, I’d be able to rely on one of your timetables for once in my sorry life.
Seven minutes, Mark. Four hundred and 20 seconds, Sue. Oh, I know, compared with yesterday’s monstrous half-hour horrorshow it seems like chump-change… but it’s still seven minutes. It’s still seven minutes of my time you were not supposed to take.
And, as I may have said before, all these seemingly minor delays stack up. (You must excuse me if I repeat myself, Mark; you must discretely avert your eyes if I regurgitate my metaphors, Sue – after 60 letters a little bit of repetition becomes inevitable. Plus: things rarely stick in my head for more than a week or two anyway. I’ve got a terrible memory, Mark. A memory like a… what’s it called? A thing. A, you know… a whatsit. Sieve, Mark! A thing like a sieve. A – where was I? Oh yes! I’ve got a thing like a thing. Memory of a goldfish!)
They stack up, Sue! Like discarded Roman pottery that will one day form a mighty Roman mountain! (I’ve definitely used that one before.) They wear down, Mark! Like drips in the desert that will one day gouge the Grand Canyon! (I’ve used that one before too.)
Hey! Guess what? A nice chap called Tim added up the delays for me Mark. He did the maths. He sent me an email. He made a spreadsheet! He added up all the minutes you’ve taken from me (against my will, Mark!) since I began writing to you, almost exactly five months ago. It’s quite an extraordinary thing, Mark. I was touched, Sue!
But anyway – do you know what the total came to? Do you know how much time of mine you’ve wasted since the end of June? No? Have a guess! Five hours? Ten hours?
I’ll tell you… next time. Unfortunately, due to unspecified problems of a deliberately vague nature (“congestion”, for example), this letter will be terminating at the next stop. You’re just gonna have to wait to find out the rest!
*Etymological? Or entomological? Sue? I can never remember which word means what. One of them’s to do with the roots of language and the other with… I dunno, insects or something. Bugs. Creepy crawlies! What do you think, Sue? Did I get it right? Is it etymological? Or am I making a fool of myself? I’d hate to make a fool of myself, Sue! Wouldn’t you? I’d do almost anything to avoid making a fool of myself!