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Blog: Platform Altercation

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I had a very strange experience at St Pancras station on Saturday morning. I'd booked on the 09:02 train to Derby, where I was due to do some recording with The Validators (more on which another time), and when the platform was announced at about 08:45 I, along with several hundred other people, went to get on board.

When we got to the train the doors were still locked, which isn't that unusual, but then they stayed locked. It got to 09:02 with them still that way, and no announcements whatsoever about what was going on, so I thought I'd go and ask. It's always annoying when train companies leave you like that - even if they made an announcement to say "We'll find out what's going on" it would reassure people that their train isn't going to just leave without them.

Keeping an eye on the train to make sure it didn't do just that, I walked back down the platform to the area near the ticket gates, where two members of staff were having a chat. I asked what was happening with the train, and one of them, a big bloke dressed in a management suit rather than uniform, started suddenly laying into me. "Be patient!" he yelled. "We're waiting for a driver!" I was shocked at how suddenly, very aggresively, angry he was (I'd asked very politely!) so said "Could you tell us all that? There's all these people waiting - " "We didnt' know did we? We've only just found out ourselves, which is why we're making an announcement now," he shouted, pointing at his colleague, who then took out a walkie-talkie and made an announcement. It was all a bit weird, not just because he was SO AGGRESSIVE about it, but because they had clearly not only just been informed - before they'd spoken to me I'd seen them chatting to each other without doing anything, and anyway the train had been locked for 15 minutes and should already have left!

"Now go back and wait for your train," he said, jabbing his finger at me. Look at all those other people - everybody else is waiting, you're the only one who's complained."

"You're the first to complain" is one of those things that arseholes always say, as if that invalidates what you're doing - in this case I was the first because I was at the near end of the train. The whole experience was ASTONISHING - he seemed to be FURIOUS, as if I'd accused him of something, instead of just asking when the train was going. I've had all sorts of bother from East Midlands trains and their predecessors over nearly 30 years, but never anything like this.

"Is this how you do customer service at East Midlands Trains?" I asked (yes, that is an INCREDIBLY ENGLISH way to protest!). "Yes it is!" he said. "Now go back to your train and wait."

It was UTTERLY WEIRD, but then it got worse! I went back to the train, shaking, and then thought "Hang on a minute, he can't get away with that." Like most people i have met bullies like this at various points of my life, and have realised that they behave this way because they CAN. Here in The Future, however, we have tools to help us STAND UP to them, so I turned back round and got my phone out to take a picture of him, so I could report exactly who had been so horrible.

He was stood in the middle of the platform watching me - triumphant at his victory I guess - but when he saw my phone come out he turned around and started walking away. This bloody infuriated me, so I marched back down to try and get round him. He moved around, hiding his face, and said "Yeah yeah, get your phone out." He then got HIS phone out and held it up in my face, so I couldn't get a picture of him. "I'll take a picture of you shall I?" he said.

I took my picture and started to move away, and he said "It's illegal to take pictures of staff on the platform!" This infuriated me even more - this is ANOTHER thing that bullies ALWAYS say, it's the equivalent of some git on a messageboard in olden times saying "That's LIBEL that is, I'm going to SUE you."

"No it's not," I said, "And anyway, you've just taken a picture of me!"

"Oh yeah, do you want to see my pictures?" he said. Goodness knows what that meant, but at this point another member of staff came over, presumably to calm him down, which was handy as I had a witness when he shouted "I'm going to smack that phone out of your hand!" "Did you hear that?" I said. "He's threatening me with violence!" "I said I was going to SNATCH it out of your hand," he shouted, as if that was entirely different (it's not what he said).

It was all WEIRD, especially as it had begun with me asking what was going on with a train! I turned and went back to the train because, to be honest, my brain had realised that this was all a bit scary. He was a big bloke, clearly not used to being challenged and, I guess, in a position of power, and he really did look like he was going to thump me! A few minutes later the doors finally opened and I got on the train, shaking with adrenelain, and TWEETED East Midlands Trains about it. I gave them most of the details above and they said they were sorry that I felt I was "not addressed in the correct manner" (!) and that they'd investigate, but that "Usually in these types of situations it's one persons perception of events against another and emotions can run high in stressful situations", which I felt was pretty much a guarantee that they'd do sod all!

It was an EXTREMELY weird, and frightening, experience. Thank goodness the rest of the weekend was a bit more fun!

posted 8/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett

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