It’s not often you see those words put in the same sentence. Today I would like to recount an apocryphal tale which I have told all around the world. Maybe one day the actual hero of the story will recognise himself and quite rightly – take a bow.
A few years ago, as Kings Cross/St Pancras station in London was being renovated a temporary ticket office had been assembled outside. To get a ticket, passengers like myself had to join a queue. As the robotic voice announced the vacated ticket booth we all shuffled one step nearer our purchase. ‘Cashier number three please’, Shuffle. ‘Cashier number two please.’ Shuffle.
I don’t live in London. Even though I travel there regularly for meetings and the like I am still a tourist. I get excited by red buses, black cabs, historical sites, the museums, famous street names, even the cheery southern accents. I leap from my train, skip down the platform breathing in great lung full’s of London air. What a thrill? So when I join the ticketing queue, naturally I’m buzzing. I even have a few words with other travellers (my son now lives in London and apparently this isn’t the done thing).
‘Cashier number four please’. Shuffle.
After five minutes of shuffling all that excitement has evaporated. I now have the air of a cow lining up to be slaughtered. My will is broken. I’ve become … a commuter!
‘Cashier number 5 please’. Shuffle.
By the time I’m at the head of the queue there is not an ounce of humanity left in my soul. I am a number. That number is … ‘Cashier number two please’.
I stand before a metal grill behind which is the London Underground ticket clerk. He’s been on shift for three hours; several hundred sub-humans have made their requests of him, I was to be no exception.
‘Zone 1 return please.’
As I hand over my credit card I ask ‘Can I have a receipt with that?’
From the depths of the booth he replies ‘No’.
Suddenly I’m awakened from my trance. ‘What?’
‘Ah, just kiddin’ of course you can have a receipt with that’.
Here you go. You have a good day and thanks very much.’
I walked away with a smile on my face. My London Underground hero had transformed me from the gulag chain gang back to an overexcited tourist again. It cost him nothing to make my day and given the mind numbing job he did and the miniscule amount of time he had to interact with me, he was absolutely brilliant!
I went away thinking what nice people they employ on London Underground.