Sunday 26 March 2006

Getting cool on ICE

A train travel review
In many of my previous blogs I have both shouted out loud about being a Europhile and the joys of train travel.
Nothing spoils a good long journey like a rotten train steward who allows their prejudices and bigotry to get in the way of providing good service.
This compared to travel in the UK, I have had the pleasure of travelling on Eurostar; the English Channel international connection to France and Belgium from the UK, the Thalys which is the French high speed network and the ICE which is the InterCity Express service running in Germany.
Whilst the then Virgin trains served good food, the service and cost was a blatant rip-off, it cost a lot less to travel from London to Paris first class than it did to travel to Lancaster.
To add insult to injury, sometimes having paid the full price, anyone could upgrade for a mere 10 GBP to everyone's chagrin as we who paid up looked like mugs.
Service at my seat, I thought
The service in Germany has always been very good though only Thalys has introduced WiFi on trains, if it ever gets to work.
So, this lady steward goes round the train as a ticket conductor, checking tickets and offering a service at the seat for First Class travellers.
This goes by the way of asking if you wanted a drink or a snack from the bar.
It transpired that she checked my ticket and even had to spend more than 2 minutes with me to validate my ticket since I booked it online and printed it at home.
After checking my ticket she moved on to the next passenger, checked and then asked what she wanted and this was repeated for everyone else in my carriage.
After a few stops another group of people got on, she checked their tickets and then asked everyone as she passed by if they wanted anything else, your truly conspicuously ignored or unseen.
I did not bother, I went to the bar myself to get a coffee and the lady their served me coffee in a paper cup, well, when you travel first class you get served in bone china. I gently remonstrated and she mended her ways.
So, when this stewardess return for a third helping of customers, I accosted her and asked why I was being ignored and she replied in German which I do understand to some extend.
This however is the same lady who was making German and English announcements on the train about stops and connections. How convenient, I retorted.
Then she said I was asleep, when I must have been sleep-sitting when she checked my ticket. Lying through your teeth when you know you are wrong and then trying to carry it on. Oh! I find it utterly, utterly irksome.
The question is, how do you address such nonsense when your money is good enough for the ticket but your presence is not good enough for the service?
I would not stand for it
In common English parlance, I should be Pissed Off! But then when someone who in my bad year probably does not earn as much as I pay in taxes, it becomes a waste of good energy having to deal with it.
Normally, when one encounters behaviour that is subtly prejudiced, it can be ignored, but this was obvious from all reckoning and observation, I should not have to stand for it, Not in Europe, Not on a train and Not when I have paid for a basic entitlement and definitely, not from anyone talk less of a train conductor.

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