Posts Tagged 'annoying things about public transport'

Woman hears at station ticket office for the first time

Hearing loop symbol

Sadly, the title is slightly misleading. The new loop setting on the Oticons has given me superpowers of hearing, but not quite in the way I imagined. In telecoil mode, there is much excitement to be had in hearing the interference from invisible electromagnetic fields, and so far nothing sounds scarier than the sinister buzzing from 25 000 volts of overhead power lines in a train station, although the electricity meter in the hall cupboard at home runs a close second. I’ll be checking out some pylons when we go on the annual field trip to Loch Lomond later in the week.

I had hoped that the loop might prove useful for the more prosaic purpose of hearing through bullet-proof glass screens at ticket offices, etc, but I have not yet detected the sound of a human voice in that particular situation. I came close at Wemyss Bay train station last week, when I spotted the big ear sign at the ticket counter, and eagerly flipped my switches. Finding my first loop which was actually switched on was a breakthrough, and it was worth switching the spouse off temporarily to take advantage of it. I willed the magical words “That’ll be £6.70 each for two singles, doll” to be beamed straight into my brain via telecoil, but you can imagine my disappointment when I heard the faintly amplified sound of the ticket machine printheads going about their business instead. Fortunately, the thrill of hearing the electromagnetic field of the overhead power lines for the first time more than made up for it.

My tireless quest to hear a ticket transaction through a hearing loop will go on, but in the meantime, I shall continue to amaze people with my superpower ability to identify electric fences whilst out walking in the countryside.

What Was That Announcement? Things You’re Unlikely To See #5

live train information

Ah, just imagine…live text announcements to your mobile to translate the unintelligible mumblings from a station PA system. A technological step too far for Scotrail, perhaps, but maybe there is an alternative.

I often stare at the Information section of the train departures board in the hope that it will tell me something more useful than not to feed the pigeons, not to smoke within the station or not to leave my luggage unattended. It seems I am the only one, however, because everywhere you look on the concourse there are pigeons wrestling chips with their stumps, and pecking at fag butts and unattended suitcases.

Standalone live PA system announcements for the deaf/ HOH might arguably take up too much space on the board, but what if the pigeon alerts on the board could alternate with text announcements?  It would also help the 98% of the populace who don’t care about not feeding the pigeons and can’t make out the PA announcements either. Two for the price of one.

I know for a fact this system could work. Scotrail love alternating displays, and already have a sophisticated system in place at minor stations which only have one monitor. It somehow detects when you are about to look at the screen for vital train information, and immediately switches to a useless warning not to leave unattended luggage. I find the system is particularly effective when you are rushing.

I used to try and trick the sensors by pretending to look away as I approached, until I misjudged some stairs in the bowels of Glasgow Central and nearly ended up under the Garscadden train. If the secret alternating display system could be deployed usefully to make space for live text announcements on the main destination board, however, my embarrassing trip might not have been in vain…

Background photo cropped from Departures board, Glasgow central railway station  courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Out Of The Frying Pan

Ever since my first incredulous realisation that hearing aids do not have OFF switches, I have longed for a method of discreet, instant relief from life’s little amplified auditory trials. Like the bunch of shrieking teenagers happy-slapping each other on the station platform yesterday morning. It was with great excitement, then, that I seized the opportunity to test the revolutionary (to me) MUTE stand-by setting on the wondrous new Oticons.

I gripped both aids firmly, as if about to lift my head off my shoulders by the ears, pressed the buttons for the 3 seconds advised in the instruction manual, and waited. And waited. 20 seconds later, the amplified teenagers were still screeching, and the devastating realisation dawned that the mute option must not have been activated in the software when the Oticons were set up.

Never mind, I said to myself, I’ll just sit in a different carriage when the train arrives and all will be well. I kept a close eye on the teenagers’ erratic herd movements as the train approached, and headed swiftly in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I was so focussed on the teenagers’ movements, that I failed to notice the occupants of the next carriage along until it was too late.

The train doors snapped shut behind me and, for once, I didn’t hear the sound of them bleeping. In a horror scenario, the beeps were being drowned out by the unbelievable noise of a full carriage of hyped-up 7 year-olds on their way to the seaside with their battle weary teachers.

To everyone who works with large groups of little people in a confined space on a daily basis:

Respect.

The NHS Oticon Spirit Zest instruction manual can be found here

Big Night Out On Bute

You know you’re doing something daft when you’re working out a short cut home, and having to consult tide timetables and a lunar calendar to ensure you’ll actually get there in one piece. This was the scenario when we realised that the last bus home from Saturday night’s King Creosote gig at Mountstuart House on Bute, was timed to depart right in the middle of the performance.

We had three options: 1. Depart with the last bus right in the middle of the performance, 2. Embark on a bunion-punishing two hour walk home in the dark along a country road after the performance had finished, or 3. Embark on a slightly shorter walk home through the estate grounds, along a potholed B road, down through a steep field on to a rocky bit of beach and across the wet sands at low tide in the dark. Adventurous Option 3 had the most appeal when I cooked it up over my cornflakes and fresh orange juice at breakfast time, but by mid afternoon I had gone off it a bit when I spotted a distant herd of cows appearing back in their field after milking. I reckoned they might not take kindly to being stepped on in the dark by two clumsy humans, and although savagings by dairy cows are rare on Bute, there’s a first time for everything. This realisation led to the hatching of Option 4: a 2 mile pre-King Creosote cycle to the bus stop at the foot of the ascent from Kingarth to Mountstuart, dump the bikes in a hedge, get the bus to the gig, walk for an hour and a half afterwards to pick up the bikes and wobble the last bit home.

“Why didn’t we think of that before, it’s so obvious”, I announced smugly to the spouse as I confidently asked for two singles to Mountstuart on the bus, to ensure there would be no going back. The spouse was a little less convinced and asked the bus driver when the last bus was, just in case.

A couple of hours later, we were happily ensconced in the unusual venue of the crypt below the chapel at Mountstuart, and enjoying Jon Hopkins showing off his perfect pitch party trick between songs while King Creosote re-tuned his guitar. Audience members were invited to sing a random note, and Jon instantly named the note and played it on the piano. For a second I was tempted to join in by cupping my hands over my ears to produce the highest note in the house, but the piano keyboard wouldn’t have had enough keys to cover it, and I didn’t want to wake the inhabitants of the crypt.

As the brightly coloured stained glass panel behind the stage gradually dimmed in the fading twighlight, I found my thoughts drifting from the wonderful musings of King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, to the less edifying prospect of being mown down by a passing car as we walked home on a country road at midnight. The spouse was reading my mind.

“Wanna get the bus?” he whispered. Several times.

Too Close For Comfort

I stepped on to the packed 18:50 train with 5 minutes to spare, and flattened myself against the glass divider screen just inside the door in a vain attempt to avoid being pushed to the back of the carriage against my will. Five minutes later, I had been pushed to the back of the carriage against my will and was wedged uncomfortably against a pole amidst a sea of people, including The World’s Tallest Man and The World’s Most Assertive Man. As the train moved off, The World’s Tallest Man stretched his arm behind my head from about six feet away to hold on to the pole, while The World’s Most Assertive Man reached across my face to do the same thing, effectively trapping me in a headlock. Had the situations been reversed, I would have felt that pushing my arm against a stranger’s face was a bit rude, but The World’s Most assertive Man was clearly used to having his own way. I prayed for one of my mind-blowing sneezing fits to come on and sort him out, but it never came.

As the train wobbled shakily over the points on the track, The World’s Tallest Man decided to establish an even tighter grip on the pole, and consequently, my head. Worse still, the armpit of his GoreTex jacket was now rubbing noisily on the microphone hole of the hearing aid with every tiny movement, and I felt an overwhelming urge to throttle him. Not even the spouse gets that close to the microphone hole and, frankly, no one other than an audiologist ever should. I vowed to prevent this unwelcome intrusion on public transport in future, by developing a new improved version of the EarShot speaker. It would work by hijacking the speakers of the train PA system, and using wireless technology to broadcast the sound output of my hearing aid to all and sundry. If that idea became a reality, no stranger would ever get away with rubbing the microphone hole of my hearing aid with the armpit of their GoreTex jacket again. My fellow passengers would be forced to step in and wrench the man’s arm from my ear without me having to do a thing.

“Hey, you, stop rubbin yer jacket on that wumman’s hearin aid, that noise is pure doing ma nut in”, they’d say. “And you, Mr Assertive, take yer elbow oottae her mouth, as well, that’s really rude”, they’d continue, once the hearing aid scenario had been brought to their attention.  But all of that was in the future. I needed help now.

“Hearing Aid Avenger!” I cried, “Save me!”

I waited, but nothing happened.

At the next station, the man released his headlock and I staggered off the train into the darkness and driving rain.

“You’re getting sacked, Hearing Aid Avenger”, I muttered.

This train is for Largs

There is always plenty of on-board entertainment to be had when travelling by Scotrail, and Saturday’s journey to the seaside to enjoy a rare two days of unbroken sunshine was no exception. We had barely left Glasgow Central when a commotion broke out several seats away.

“See you pal, you’re gonnae huv tae dae somethin aboot that dug!” shouted the ticket woman as a full carriage load of people jumped in unison at the sudden barking and snarling coming from a previously unseen creature lurking in the priority seating. There followed a heated exchange, but it was rather one sided because the dug’s owner had a frustratingly inaudible voice.

“…So you’re saying it’s my fault the dug’s attacking me?” shouted the ticket woman.

“WOOF WOOF WOOF…GRRRRR!” responded the dug in self defence, before lunging at her hand.

“That’s bloody ridiculous…get a muzzle on that thing” shouted the ticket woman before exiting as speedily as possible to the sound of claws scrabbling on lino and a straining choke chain.

As the dug’s owner issued some soothing words to his insulted pet, quiet returned, but only for a short while. It seemed that the dug had sophisticated motion sensors which were setting off his vocal cords every time a passenger moved. Meanwhile, a family a few seats up were also beginning to increase in volume, now that their Irn Bru and crisps had been polished off. In startling contrast to Fido’s owner, who treated his dog like a delicate child, this lot spoke to their children like dogs.

“SIT!”

“DOWN!”

“GET AFFAE THAT SEAT, YOU, AH’LL NO TELL YE AGAIN!”

“SEE IF YOU BITE ME WAN MAIR TIME!”

“STOAP CHEWIN MA MAGAZINE!”

This endless loop of commands shouted at high volume to no effect whatsoever, was suddenly interrupted by a further round of barking and snarling from FrankenFido, followed by a very piercing scream from within the family group. I sat up like a meerkat and saw Pa lifting his youngest child to safety by the scruff of the neck. Uh-oh, I thought. The fatherly response to the averted dog attack was swift.

“STOP ANNOYIN’ THE DUG, YA WEE MIDDEN!” shouted Pa to his offspring.

I looked out of the window and was relieved to catch sight of the rapidly approaching seafront. The train pulled into the station and there was a sudden mass exodus of buckets and spades, leaving the spouse and I to continue the rest of the journey in peace. Until some tinny chipmunk music from a mobile phone started up.

“GRRRRRRRR”, I snarled.

Entrainment

After losing the race to the last seat on the packed train yesterday morning, I reluctantly stood just inside the doors and braced myself for the ‘door closing’ warning beeps.

Beeeeeeeep went the doors as we prepared to depart.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE……..EEP went the hearing aid.

At the next station, a well built and rather grumpy looking man got on and positioned himself directly opposite me.

Beeeeeeeep went the doors. Several times.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE……..EEP went the hearing aid

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE……..EEP

As I cursed the lack of an ‘OFF’ switch on the Chroma S, I noticed that the doors were not fully shut and that the grumpy man was leaning against them. Dare I tell him that he was stopping the train from moving with his outsize elbow? One look at his expression told me that this might not be such a good idea, so I hatched a plan to surreptitiously squeeze the doors shut with my hands instead.

“Excuse me, have you ever tried squeezing a set of train doors shut with your bare hands?” interjected my helpful Inner Voice. “If a hydraulic door closing system can’t shift that bugger’s elbow, I very much doubt that you can. You’ll look like a right eejit…” The Inner Voice was abruptly silenced before it could go on to elaborate further on my inadequacies, by the sight of the train driver knocking on the window to shout at the grumpy man. I was glad that I had decided not to fiddle with the doors just at that point, as I might now be being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by the British Transport Police.

The driver returned to his cab in a bad temper and opened and closed the doors one last time to make sure that everything was working. The grumpy man, having learned his lesson, carefully leant away from them as they opened… before leaning on them again with his elbow just as they shut. There was another prolonged round of beeping as the driver repeatedly attempted to close the doors, causing hearing aid meltdown to begin in my left ear. I was starting to dislike the grumpy man and his big elbow intensely. Everything now sounded like it was reverberating through a gigantic cardboard tube, and I prayed that no one had a set of bagpipes on them, or videos of my exploding head would be gracing YouTube in no time.

Just as I was contemplating ending my torment by ripping the doors open instead of trying to shut them, the grumpy man suddenly released his big elbow to turn the page of his newspaper, and the doors snapped firmly shut.

Silence. Phew.


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