Call me cynical, but I’m convinced that the people who work on trains and buses derive some sick pleasure from making people wait to board. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood on a platform with thirty other commuters, all of us glaring at a man in a reflective vest clutching a clipboard and a plastic bag as he carries out “maintenance” or does a “routine check” or whatever. And of course the colder it is, the longer they make you wait. I’d be more sympathetic to whatever duty they’re fulfilling if the train looked any different after they’d finished. But I invariably get on to find a tattered copy of Metro (which I dare not touch because its pages are sticky and tinged with the spillage of some brightly-coloured fizzy drink), an empty plastic bottle clattering about my ankles, and the fresh smells of whatever new food today’s passengers are tucking into, the packaging of which will also soon find its way to the floor.
I’m sorry. I’m just grumpy because it’s -3 and my friends are waiting for me in a toasty pub five miles away while I wait for a bus that should have been here fifteen minutes ago and which has left me standing out in the freezing cold hashing out this article on my phone to vent my frustration and pass the time, blowing warm air on my thumbs every minute or so to keep them moving. When I do get on the bus, I’m greeted by a big ‘ey up!’ printed in big block letters on the driver’s door. The panelling of the bus, too, is adorned with images of happy people and slogans so snappy and incorrectly punctuated that they don’t actually make any sense: TIME. OUT., ANYWHERE. FAST., and my favourite: RIDING. REDEFINED.
Now, I know that the Harrogate Bus Company — which operates the bus network in my area and whose service is usually very good, it must be said — has spent considerable amounts of money modernising its fleet in recent years, but it seems to be getting ahead of itself. I would love to know exactly how it claims to have “redefined” bus travel. True, there is now free WiFi and USB ports to charge your phone, but these have been in existence on public transport around the world since long before the Harrogate Bus Company even cottoned on to paying by card.
And what’s with the full stops everywhere? I know simplicity is in vogue and language is descriptive and all that, but things still need to make sense. Before shelling out millions on refurbishments and fancy graphics, it’s worth remembering that commas and full stops are not interchangeable. “Riding, redefined”, although still pretentious and unsubstantiated, works better. Small as these points may be, they must be addressed, for they are the early warning signs of a slow but assured deterioration in standards that pervades all aspects of life and which will eventually bring about the destruction of civilised life.
As for the ‘ey up!’ on the driver door, this is very much in keeping with the ‘proudly British’ rhetoric that is inescapable in the UK at the moment. I’m all for locally-sourced produce and supporting domestic industry, but I swear I can’t go a day without being reminded that everything around me is ‘proudly British’. I see two reasons for this. The first is that advertisers seem to be trying to tap into this feeling of British superiority that has become especially pertinent amid Brexit. At a time when 52% of this country wants to supposedly take back its independence, it seems fitting that it’ll want to steer towards products that are home-made. The other reason, I think, is that this country is shit-scared of what’s going to happen post-Brexit and desperately trying to boost its economy by encouraging the purchase of British-made goods.
My God, isn’t this a depressing time to be British? It’s as if since the country can’t seem to find an identity in the political arena then it’ll find it in smaller ways, like a Union Flag on our potato packets or a friendly “ey up!” when we get on the bus. Nothing raises the spirits of a fed up, depressed electorate like seeing 100% British potatoes on the supermarket shelves, I guess. Oh well, whatever floats your Mary Rose.