In May I sent an email to Metro Trains. It started out as an opportunity for the Big Blue M to test their complaint response writing skills against the new public transport (and possibly the world) standard. It ended as an angry diatribe, I’ll admit. For this reason, if Metro had erred slightly on the side of conservatism in their reply, I would have given them some latitude.
They didn’t, however, err on the side of conservatism so much as put every single egg they’ve ever owned into the conservative basket:
We thank you for your extensive critique of our running of Melbourne’s train network.
Your commentary is appreciated and we will consider your suggestions along with others, as we continue to do all we can to ensure Melburnians get the train service they all deserve in one of the world’s great cities.
We’re not there yet, Jonathan, but if you’ll pardon our progress, we’re getting there.
You have outlined a number of general observations and experiences which we are keen to address and consider a meeting would be the most appropriate forum to discuss your concerns.
Please let us know of your preferred date and time. We look forward to meeting with you.
We do ask for your patience as we seek to transform Melbourne’s railway to accommodate what we promise will be a world class service.
Customer Relations Manager
Big tick for spelling ‘Melburnians’ right. Not so keen on the “pardon our progress” line. But let’s get to the good bit: the suggestion that we meet.
Why beat around the bush? They’re going to whack me, aren’t they?
Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately we may not be able to accommodate your suggested meeting time of 2.30 pm. Can we instead organise to meet at 2.30 am at the abandoned warehouse beside the Mobil Oil Terminal in Yarraville? (It’s the one closest to the river.)
The possibility of being killed execution style is one reason not to accept their offer.
On the opposite side of the gangster scenario ledger, I have for a long time fantasised about reenacting the Joe Pesci “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas in a real-life situation:
Me: Anyway… so I’m sitting down with Sam Marshall, and we’ve both had a couple of drinks each, and he says to me, he says “I thought when I first came into the bar you actually would be wearing a white chiffon scarf.”
[The Metro Trains contingent laugh uproariously]
Young Metro Representative: [laughing, wiping a tear from his eye] You’re funny. You’re really funny.
Me: What do you mean I’m funny?
YMR: It’s funny. You know. That was a funny story. We love your blog. It’s funny. You’re a funny guy. [laughing forcedly]
Me: What do you mean? The way I talk? What?
YMR: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny… the way you told that story and everything.
[everyone has stopped laughing]
Me: Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Older Metro Representative: Jonnie, no. You’ve got it all wrong.
Me: Hoh – whoa. He’s a big boy. He knows what he said. What did you say? Funny how? You mean… let me understand this, because, you know, maybe it’s me… I’m a little fucked up maybe, but… I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I write my blog to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?
YMR: Just… you know, how you tell the story, you know… What?
Me: No, no, I don’t know. You said it! How do I know? You said I’m funny. [running out of breath] How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what’s funny!
Unlike Tommy DeVito, I probably wouldn’t ever admit I was joking, though.
Seriously though, they must think I’m funny. So funny that I have some kind of disproportionate societal influence, enough to warrant a formal brainwashing session. And that’s what it will be – surely.
The alternative would be addressing, point-by-point, my email criticisms:
Metro Representative: “…OK – so if you’re happy with that explanation of why our staff member spent 90 seconds blasting the contents of his bronchial tubes into an empty coffee cup in preference to doing his job, we can move on to the possibility of having a fully-platinum train in operation before 2017…”
What on earth could they possibly tell me in person that they can’t tell me via email? “Going forward” is just as hollow out of a person’s mouth as it is on paper.
Maybe this is where I need to get creative:
Thank you very much for the invitation to meet in person. Do you mind if I bring along a couple of people I know who are just as disappointed with your service as I am? If that’s sounds fair to you, are you aware of any venues in Melbourne that seat 4 million people?
Yes, a meeting is undoubtedly the best way to discuss my numerous concerns. And by meeting I mean a televised debate simulcast across every single TV station in Australia, including the ABC and SBS, and all the digital ones, except that one that shows people having their fortunes told.
I would very much like to meet to discuss my criticisms. Although perhaps “discuss” is the wrong word. How would you feel about addressing my concerns as part of a stage musical with your CEO as the leading lady? It doesn’t have to be original…
“Trains were on time when old hacks were retired
When inspectors were kind
And our carriages inviting
Trains were on time when profits weren’t required
And the world was a ride
And the ride was exciting
Trains were on time
Then it all went wrong
We dreamed a dream of trains on time.
When hope was high
And life worth living
We dreamed of stations in the sky
We dreamed of punters more forgiving…”
A meeting sounds like a fine idea. Can we do it like the Sooty Show where if I don’t like one of your explanations I squirt you in the face with a water pistol or dramatically slam my face into a full bowl of cereal, spraying you with milk?
But let’s be honest, I’m not going to meet with them. What would be the point? What new information will I get? Are they withholding important information from the public which they only release to smart-alec bloggers? And if (hilariously) they are – is it going to be honest and insightful stuff? Is it going to answer not only my mostly flippant questions, but also the serious questions raised by people who know the system inside out, including Metro’s own drivers (some of whom are making astonishing claims about the dishonest practices and policies carried out by their employers)?
But my main concern – my main concern by far – is that if I organised a time to meet, I would then need to catch a train to get to that meeting. And the last thing I’d want to do is turn up late to such an important appointment.
Haught Feelings would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
The #FreeAnnie campaign
If you think the way Melbourne’s train system operates has to change, get involved in the #FreeAnnie campaign.
Haught fact of the day:
According to IMBD, the “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas came out of a real life experience Joe Pesci had had when he was much younger. The director, Martin Scorsese, allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene without telling the numerous other actors involved what would happen.