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    Lost On The Train And In Translation

    | England, UK | Language & Words, Tourists/Travel, Transportation

    (I work in the ticket office at a train station. One night a customer with very poor English comes up to me.)

    Customer: “Cawidge.”

    Me: “I’m sorry, where are you headed?”

    Customer: “Cawidge.”

    Me: “Cambridge?”

    Customer: “No, I go Cawidge.”

    Me: “Can you write that for me?” *I hand him a piece of paper and a pen.*

    Customer: *shouts something in a foreign language to someone on the other side of the station, who comes running up.*

    Customer’s Friend: “He go Cawidge.”

    Me: “Yes, can you write that for me please?”

    Customer’s Friend: “Uh… Cawidge. Brummum?”

    Me: “Birmingham?”

    Customer’s Friend: *excitedly* “Yeah, yeah! Brummum! Brummum Cawidge!”

    *it suddenly clicks*

    Me: “Oh, University of Birmingham?”

    Customer: “Yeah, cawidge!”

    Me: “Sure, that’ll be [price]. In future though, don’t ask for the College, ask for University of Birmingham. Okay?”

    Customer: “Yew… nee… verse… Brummum!”

    Me: “… Yeah, that’ll do.”

    This Customer Is A Train-Wreck

    | Wales, UK | Bad Behavior, Family & Kids, Technology, Tourists/Travel

    (A woman comes in with her daughter.)

    Customer: “Hi, I’d like to collect some pre-booked tickets.”

    Me: “Sure! Have you got the booking reference printout?”

    Customer: “No.”

    Me: “Oh, well, never mind! If you have it written down in another format or maybe saved in your phone, I should still be able to find it.”

    Customer: “No. I don’t have it. The girl who served me last time didn’t ask for it. I just put my card in the machine.”

    Me: “I’m sure you must have misunderstood. We cannot issue tickets without some type of secondary reference. Do you know the postcode associated with the billing address, and could I have your surname?”

    Customer: “I don’t see why I need to give you those details. Look, I just want to print my daughter’s tickets and go back to work. You’re costing me money here.”

    Me: “I’m sorry, but unless you can give me more details such as name, postcode, and destination, I can’t print your tickets. Look—” *swivels computer screen so the customer can see* “—here are the search fields I have for when there is no collection reference number available. Unless I can fill in two of these, I cannot print your tickets.”

    Customer: *turning to daughter* “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE THE REFERENCE NUMBER?”

    Customer’s Daughter: “Sorry, mum, you said I shouldn’t waste paper and the ticket people didn’t need it.”

    Customer: “Well, clearly they do. YOU’RE ALL COSTING ME MONEY HERE!”

    Me: “I’m sorry, but one of the terms is that you provide a reference for collection. Could you please let me try and help you with some of your other details?”

    Customer: *snappily* “FINE! It’s [Surname] and [postcode].”

    Me: “I’m sorry; nothing’s come up.” *shifts screen around again so she can see* “See? Could you have used a different postcode?”

    Customer: “No. Look, this really isn’t good enough. Why won’t the destination work on its own?”

    Me: “I’m sorry, but hundreds of people travel every day from [Our Station] to [Major London Station]. I’m just thinking: whose email did you put in? Since it’s quiet in here, I could let you around the back to use one of the staff computers to log in and find me the reference number. I should tell you though, that this is against company policy and that I am doing this at my own risk. I could face disciplinary action.”

    Customer: “It’s [Daughter]’s email. Can she just do it? Can I go? I need to get back to work.”

    Me: “If yours was the payment card, then I am afraid you will need to wait until your daughter has accessed her emails since the reference number is useless without the payment card and vice versa.”

    Customer: “Fine. [Daughter], go in the back with this idiot and see if you can’t find this bleeding reference number between your half-a-brain-cell each.”

    (The daughter nips around to my side of the booth, accesses her email, and within 30 seconds I have the tickets up. The woman inserts her card and collects her tickets, and before she leaves decides to have one more dig at me for how slow I was to get her tickets up on the system.)

    Me: “I’m sorry it took so long to resolve your issue, but perhaps next time you might consider writing the reference number down? You needn’t print it; in fact [Train Company] offers to send a free SMS containing the details to your phone. It would save an awful lot of problems.”

    Customer: “Or, you know, they could just hire competent staff who don’t need reference numbers!” *to Daughter* “Look at all the money you’ve cost me! I’m selling your Xbox when I get home!”

    (She stormed out. Fortunately I haven’t seen her since, although the daughter stopped by on her return journey to thank me for helping her.)

    Bus Fuss

    | Wales, UK | Extra Stupid, Tourists/Travel, Transportation

    (I work in a train station ticket office which has two main entrances: one directly from the platform and one from the street. There is no pavement outside the street entrance and the door opens straight onto the bus stop. The pavement is a good 20 feet away in any given direction.)

    Customer: *walks in through street entrance* “Hiya. Where’s the bus stop?”

    Me: “You actually walked over it. It’s just outside the doors there.”

    Customer: *heads for platform doors*

    Me: “Sir, stop! I meant the street doors. You know, the ones you entered through?”

    (The customer stops, pauses, looks at me, looks at street doors, looks at platform doors, starts again towards platform doors.)

    Me: “Sir, NOT THOSE DOORS! You need to turn around and walk back out the way you came in.”

    Customer: “The way I came in?” *turns to face the street entrance*

    Me: *encouragingly* “Yes, sir. Those doors right ahead!”

    (The customer does another 180° and starts off AGAIN for the platform.)

    Me: “Sir, please wait right there. I’ll lock up my booth and come show you.”

    Customer: “Sorry, thanks. It’s not very obvious.”

    (I quickly lock up my booth and come around to help the customer. I lead him physically by the arm outside. I only stop him when his feet are on the ‘B’ of ‘BUS STOP’ which is painted in four-foot-high letters on the floor).

    Me: “There you go, sir. Now, can you read the floor by your feet?”

    Customer: *looks* “Bus stop?”

    Me: Yep. So all you gotta do is wait here until one shows up!”

    Customer: *incredulously* “Do the buses come to here?”

    Me: “They do at that, sir.”

    Customer: *looks painfully unsure* “So this is the bus stop?”

    Me: “Yes indeed, sir. It is.” *checks timetable* “The next bus is to [Town] at 13:54, about two minutes from now.”

    (I ended up waiting at the bus stop with him until the bus came. He was a repeat visitor for about a month, during which time I learned that his car was broken and he was using trains and buses in the interim, and that in all his 32 years he’d never once used a public bus! He worked as a teaching assistant in a nearby primary school – I fear for our nation’s children!)

    Off-Track Solution

    | Toronto, ON, Canada | Bizarre, Theme Of The Month, Transportation

    (I work as an attendant for the local transit train system. A family walks in and buys some tickets for next the train to Toronto. Afterwards, they go out to the platform as the train begins to arrive. Once it stops, the daughter runs off the platform and goes under the first car lying against the tracks. Everyone goes into a panic, so I run out and try talk to the girl.)

    Me: “Ma’am, get out from under there!”

    Customer: “No! We bought tickets, so we go to Toronto!”

    Me: “Yes… so are you trying to board?”

    Customer: “Yeah! This is the way in!”

    Me: “No, you go through the doors.”

    Customer: “No, I am not stupid! Those are just stickers for show! That’s just f****** stupid! God!”

    (I give up and leave. The conductor had to pry her out and show her the real way in. It ended up halting all train traffic for that specific line and delayed all trains for two hours.)

    He Got BUS-ted

    | Sydney, NSW, Australia | Bad Behavior, Extra Stupid, Top, Transportation

    (I’m at the busiest train station in the state, waiting to get out of the station to grab some lunch whilst I wait for my train. I get stuck behind a man whose train ticket will not allow him to exit through the ticket gates.)

    Passenger: “Excuse me, my ticket isn’t working!”

    Employee: “Oh, can I see your ticket, please?”

    Passenger: “I bought this from a news agency. It’s supposed to work on all trains!”

    (The passenger hands the employee a pre-paid bus ticket.)

    Employee: “I’m sorry, sir, but this ticket won’t work here. This is not a train ticket.”

    Passenger: “But I bought it from a newsagent! It has to work!”

    Employee: “I don’t know what else to tell you, mate. This ticket will not work on this service, and you have wasted your money. I can let you through the gate, though, if you’ll just step back to let the gate open.”

    Passenger: “This is RIDICULOUS! This ticket is supposed to work! I used my hard-earned money on it! I spent Australian currency on this! Why isn’t it working?!”

    (There is now a very long line of irate people waiting for the man to just go through the now open gate. The employee is dumbfounded as to why the man won’t just leave. I lose my temper because I’m hungry and my train is to leave shortly, so I step in.)

    Me: “Dude. You bought the wrong ticket. That ticket is a bus ticket. Operative word: BUS. This is a train station.”

    Passenger: “I don’t care! I bought it and therefore it should work!”

    Me: “Yeah, it will work on a bus, but that brings us back to the original predicament: this is a train station, so your ticket will not work, no matter how much you harass people about it.”

    Passenger: “Nobody asked you, you little b****.”

    Me: “No, you’re right; nobody asked me. But I’m f****** hungry, and you are holding up a few dozen people. So please shut up, accept the fact that you screwed up, and get out of the way.”

    Passenger: “You’ve got a mouth on you, don’t you?”

    Me: “I do, and I’d like to fill it with food, so please get the f*** out of my way.”

    (The passenger storms off, and I ask the employee if she can keep the gate open for me as I don’t want my ticket to get rejected on the way back through. She lets me through, and I go to get some food and come back. As I come back to the gate, there is a security guard and another employee standing with the first employee. The security guard approaches me with a notepad.)

    Security Guard: “Excuse me, miss: I just have a question for you. Are you in any way affiliated with [rail company] as a contractor or employee?”

    Me: “No, I’m just trying to get to Woolongong to see a few friends.”

    Security Guard: *closes notepad and smiles* “Thanks for that. That guy you told off? He tried to file an official complaint against you. He wouldn’t believe [Employee] when she said you don’t work here.”

    Employee: “And thanks for that, by the way. Enjoy your trip to the coast!”

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