Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts from the Train: the death of the British stiff upper lip?

Here in the warmth of my first class carriage, somewhere just outside Colchester, it is tempting to be grateful for small mercies. Yes, it's crowded, and we're not moving very quickly - reports of overrunning engineering works between Manningtree and Colchester, of points failures at Witham and the fact that it is really quite chilly have contributed to that - but I will get to London eventually.

Meanwhile, chaos reigns at our stations and airports, with snow and ice causing cancellations and delays - and an awful lot of whinging. Curiously, in unusual weather conditions, things tend not to run smoothly. To get to my office this morning, I am reliant on three different modes of transport - a taxi to get me to the station, a train to get me to London, and an underground train to get me to the office. Each of them is vulnerable, with the car accurately parked in a ditch near my home testament to the treacherous driving conditions away from the main arteries.

And yet the story is one of people whining that they are being inconvenienced. No signs of anyone saying how pleased they are that rail workers, bus drivers and the like are doing their best to get people from A to B. Perhaps we need to reflect on just how amazing it is that the technology exists to get so many people to so many places with such ease (under normal circumstances) and with so little sense of adventure and danger.

So, is it me, or has that traditional sense of stoicism been lost? Are we now so conditioned to find someone to blame that the ability to conclude that things simply break or go wrong and that we should deal with it has withered away? At St Pancras International, the sounds of outrage have been loud and long, as Eurostar work out what went wrong before resuming services, and for those stuck in the tunnels as the evacuation procedure failed dismally, there are grounds for unhappiness.

However, those stuck in London, or Brussels, or Paris, claiming that they'll never use Eurostar again, do themselves no credit. As the weather improves, and the locomotive problems are resolved, I don't doubt that Eurostar will do their utmost to get everyone to where they want to go, likewise with the airlines. Isn't that as much as most people can reasonably expect?

So, as we make our erratic way to wherever it is we're going today, spare a thought for those who are trying to get you there. They're probably as frustrated as you are, they probably have as little information as you do, and they would rather be at home than take their chances in the snow and ice.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

There is no contradiction between traditional british stoicism and traditional british moaning.