At the end of last month you might recall that I began the #FreeAnnie campaign. If you didn’t catch the post or if the details are a bit HB-pencil sketchy in your mind, you can find it here.
In the immortal words of Professor Farnsworth, “Who likes good news? Everyone? Then: ‘Good news, everyone’.”
Annie sent me this message yesterday:
Haughty-Haught-Haught… Can I take a moment to thank you for your help? I’ve just received official notice that the robots who issued my infringement notice have been reprogrammed, rebooted and have come to their senses… (Or, at very least, the higher ups were not appreciating the #FreeAnnie campaign/ my incessant letters).
My infringement notice has been officially re-reviewed and Metro Trains’ plans for world domination (one $180 fine at a time) have been derailed!
Yep, #FreeAnnie led to free Annie. Well, that’s what I’m claiming.
So if you read and ‘liked’ the post, and particularly if you passed it on, used the #FreeAnnie hashtag on Twitter (@Jay3199 – magnificent!), talked about it with friends, gave a dirty look to a ticket inspector post-#FreeAnnie, or sent me any kind of correspondence re: the campaign, consider yourself a successful public transport activist.
There’s only one downside to Annie’s emancipation: the following email will never get put to practical use:
Dear Department of Transport,
In May, a commuter by the name of Annie [surname redacted] was booked by a Metro Trains Authorised Officer after she was unable to produce a valid ticket within an arbitrary period of time. Shortly after the ticket inspectors had left the carriage, Annie’s Metcard fell out of the book she was reading.
She wrote to you, detailing exactly what had happened and requesting that the $180 fare evasion fine be quashed. Instead of responding with the reasons why this was, or was not, possible, you chose to write her a letter listing the stock standard excuses fare evaders give you when hoping to have their fines overturned. It was like a David Letterman top 10, but with even more world-weariness and more than a small touch of the snide about it.
To me, this kind of response is incomprehensible, full stop. But when you add the fact that not one of the excuses had the vaguest relevance to Annie’s case, your effort goes from budgie-attacking-its-own-reflection silly to young-people-shrieking-for-no-apparent-reason-in-an-ad-for-bourbon farcical.
Imagine if all legal systems ran on the basis that the guilt of the accused should be determined by how fed up the accuser is with the defences offered by those previously accused of the same crime or misdemeanour.
Imagine if everyday life worked that way!
Think about what would happen if this strange new convention you seem to have created could be applied by those who use your rail network.
Dear Department of Transport,
Thank you for your questions regarding my non-payment of fares.
You can probably understand that, as a commuter, I receive hundreds of excuses from Metro Trains and the Department of Transport every week. These include:
- There was a signal fault
- There was an ill passenger
- There was a defective train
- There was congestion at Flinders Street
- One of the doors won’t open
- One of the doors won’t close
- Something about an overhead power line
- One word: vandals
- Melbourne is too small to make regular trains viable
- There are too many new customers
- There’s been a lack of investment (from both sides of politics)
- We need more rolling stock
- We need more stock that is propelled by electricity, in addition to having the capacity to roll
- Overcrowding is slowing down trains
- It was a very wet day
- It was a very dry day
- It was a very hot day
- It was a very cold day
- It was a mild day, but passengers were doing myki wrong
- The system would run better without passengers
- The system would run better without trains
- The system would run better without the system
- We were busy
- We’re still getting the hang of this electrification of the network thing
- We got distracted
- It’s mostly your fault
- The moon went behind a cloud
- There was a gunman at the station
- The dog ate our blueprint for improvement
- Our performance statistics tell a different story
- We thought we saw a wolf hiding in a bush and we got scared
- Pardon our progress
- One word: unions
- There was a problem with the swirler thing that regulates the big machine that makes a noise like this: “brip brip”
- Someone put an advertisement over the driver’s window and the train effectively became blind (on the plus side, we added to our monthly profit)
- The on-board sundial was off kilter
- Camels replaced trains at Clifton Hill and one of the camels bit some people
- We’re moving backwards, but don’t worry, we wrote a poem about moving forward
- Research tells us people like sitting in the Jolimont Rail Yards for up to twenty-five minutes at a time
- It’s the drivers’ fault
- We thought we had enough trains, but we didn’t so we had to buy some old rattlers off a collector, who was mean and sold them to us at an exorbitant rate and now we don’t have any money left to improve the system
- Our sextant was bent
- A combination of factors, going forward, has meant that the system has become temporarily suboptimal across many of its key performance measures, going forward (but we have got some good take outs from this situation and are implementing many of the learnings, going forward)
- One word: jabberwocky
- Our operations centre still uses computers that show chunky green text and possess 3 kilobytes of memory
- We keep getting kerosene and paraffin mixed up
- There are many many trains but only a few stations – you do the maths
- A wil-o-the-whisp got into one of the engines
- We thought we saw a wolf… again
- Connex left the whole place in a mess
- The Met left the whole place in a mess
- The Indigenous people of what is now metropolitan Melbourne left the whole place in a mess
- One word: wolves
- Someone literally threw a spanner in the works
- Well, hang on a second – could we at least finish our lunch?
In light of this, and having carefully read your submission, unfortunately, I cannot change my decision to ride on your trains for free at this time.
Thank you for having me as your non-paying patron.
You can sniff and scoff at your customers’ “excuses” all you like, but let’s be honest, to any reasonable, fair-minded person, “I didn’t have the correct coin change to pay for a fare that now costs $11.90” is far easier to accept than the circular logic of “Overcrowding is leading to late trains”.
Terrible things happen on your trains every single day. Passengers punch other passengers. Inebriates vomit all over seats and down aisles. Smart-alec little heroes ride between carriages screaming abuse at anyone who looks at them from inside the train. Fat slobs somehow manage to take up four seats. People barge on before anyone else has had a chance to get off. And you’re going to fine a woman because she forgot she was using her Metcard as a bookmark and not even extend her the courtesy of explaining why?
You expect as a kind of birthright an epic benefit of the doubt from Melburnians. How about giving it back once in a while?
Or will I just send it, anyway?
Haught fact of the day:
I only made up two of those Metro/Department of Transport excuses listed above.