I bloody hate this cartoon that's doing the rounds (I think it's by the incredibly talented Len in Private Eye).
Here's what I want the caption to say:
OK, one more time: Get here at least 30 minutes early because the queue barely moves and you'll inevitably be stuck behind someone trying to pay for their season ticket using pre-decimal coins. The person behind the counter either won't understand your accent or will have an accent you can't understand - so be sure to repeat everything a couple of times. No, sorry, we don't speak your language so you'll just have to hope your phrasebook is good enough. No, we don't have anyone who understands sign language either. Get given several flimsy bits of paper with tiny writing on them that you'll have to squint to read. One is your receipt, one is your seat reservation, one is your ticket - but they all look basically the same. Oh, and they'll demagnetise as soon as you put them anywhere near a phone or wallet, so don't put them in a pocket. But if you lose them you won't have any proof of your reservation or ticket. When the train is late, you won't get an automatic refund - so be sure to keep the ticket and post it to us if you need to make a claim. That's assuming the ticket barriers don't eat it.
Oh, we're out of £10 notes. So you'll need to take your change in assorted shrapnel.
Just what part of "helpful and less confusing for people" don't you get?
Here's the thing, I've been using ticket machines at train stations since the early 1990s. People have had over 30 years to get used to them by now. They aren't new and confusing. And they're usually pretty well designed (my gripes about the non-QWERTY layout notwithstanding). Modern ones even let you video-call someone if you can't figure them out.
We visited Berlin a few weeks ago. Rocked up to der Bahnhof and needed to buy a ticket for a train that was departing in 30 seconds time. I hit the large 🇬🇧 button on the screen, followed the instructions, selected the ticket, tapped my contactless card and I was done1. Quick and easy - even for someone who was tired from a long flight, in a new city, and didn't speak the language.
I'm a fully paid-up member of the O'Malleyist agenda - in that I think we should close all of the train ticket offices (actually read the piece before arguing in the comments, please). But, more than that, I hate that some people feel the need to always romanticise the past at the expense of the future.
Do you want to go back to slam-door trains, with smoking carriages, and paper tickets? Do you want easily misplaced railcards, ticket sellers who deliberately sell you the wrong fare if they don't like the look of you, and being stuck behind someone buying the most complicated route possible?
So stop with the phony nostalgia for a bygone time which wasn't nearly as bucolic as you remember.
- I mean, my wife did get trapped in the sliding doors because we weren't quite quick enough crossing the platform. But I don't think that's the ticket machine's fault! ↩