Jun 22

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Southern Rail Guards and why “doing your job” is optional, apparently.

Last night I was coming home after a publishing event in London I was on a late train from Victoria to Bognor Regis. There was a man in my carriage who was so staggeringly drunk and deranged I’m astonished he didn’t wet himself.  Actually he probably did wet himself.  I didn’t look.  Anyways, the entire carriage was treated to his mutterings, interspersed with unintelligible shouts for the entire journey. He was still drinking. His condition, therefore, did not improve.  Every now and then he would try to engage another traveller in conversation, but he was slurring so badly no-one could understand what he was saying.  His manner was quite intimidating because he was so loud and out of control. At one point he got up, tins and bottles clanking in the bags he was carrying and crashed down, face first, in the aisle, lying motionless until other customers helped him up and back into a seat.  At one point he swore violently and at length when it dawned on him he had missed his stop.  I got off just before the end of the line.  He was still there, shaking his head, slumped in his seat, talking to himself.

It was WHEN I GOT OFF (and only then) I FINALLY saw the train guard. It appears he had been in the carriage next to ours the whole time. At no point in a nearly two hour train journey – the train was running behind schedule of course – did he come through to check on us or even to check anyone actually had a ticket. He certainly didn’t check, even on a late train typically full of people who are – shall we say – “tired and emotional” that there was anyone who was vulnerable or volatile.

Even when I finally saw this guard/attendant/assistant/sugarplumfairy he was just scratching his arse and staring into space, making not the slightest effort to engage with the customers, despite my giving him the opportunity to meet my eye.  I didn’t interrupt his musings to point out his shortcomings because, being one stop away from the end of the line, he was shortly going to be unavoidably doing his job at last.

In retrospect, I just hope this drunk man didn’t choke on his own vomit before the person paid to keep people safe did something useful.

Speaking as a self-employed person, with total charge over my own destiny and the sense of personal responsibility that goes with it, I don’t rely on a patriarchal employer to run my universe thereby feeling it appropriate to stamp my foot like a three year old (i.e. strike repeatedly) when I think things might not be going my way. Shape up, whoever you are. In the real world you would have been sacked by now.