Monday, April 19, 2010


Eurostar are coping brilliantly with being one of the only ways out of Fortress Britain. Either they've learned from their customer service disaster at Christmas, or they're just enjoying being the heroes of the hour.

Just a few months ago, St Pancras was full of sobbing French students surviving on M&S handouts. Now it's a shining palace of order and queuing. I spent an hour in a queue with some friends yesterday and it was the perfect English queue - snaking past some very expensive stores, with friendly staff wandering along checking everyone was allright, and, even more importantly, that everyone was in the Right Queue - for they had constructed many queues, even one to queue outside the shut ticket office (presumably for the chance to stare mournfully into its windows before moving on).

Everyone in the queue was having a jolly time of it. Cos we're British and like a queue. The only people not loving the queue were ... well, some foreigners who just didn't want to queue. Lawks, that's a bit UKIP, and I'm sure they've had some British people throwing wobblies - but yesterday there were just a few people from abroad with urgent trains to catch who were just baffled by the decision to form a calm and orderly line and wait for instructions.

An irate Japanese lady stood at the barriers, waving her iphone and her wheelie luggage and shouting at a policeman. "But there are so many people!" she screamed, "And the ticket machines are just over there!". He nodded, as though noticing the machines for the first time, and then placidly pointed her to the end of the queue. Her luggage squeaked in frustatration as she stropped down the line past hundreds of people rolling their eyes.

A German father tried shouting a lot. It didn't get him anywhere. I guess it's one of those British things. We have Irrational Faith in a queue. If we see one outside a shop, we know there'll be a good sale. If we see one outside a restaurant or G-A-Y we know that there's a 3% chance of Cheryl Cole. And, at times of transport crisis, there's some comfort in joining in an organised monobloc of shuffling and tutting and eye-rolling and making phone calls to friends to tell them that you're in a queue and it's going nowhere. A queue feels like it has purpose and somehow makes up for the frequently shoddy customer service you get with public transport.

Not that Eurostar's customer servie has been shoddy this time - it's been brilliant. This morning, I saw a grateful French lady try to press some Euros into the hands of one employee. He looked embarrassed. "We're not allowed to accept tips, madam. It's what we're paid for." So she hugged him instead.


Anonymous said...

Say not all that you know, believe not all that you hear.......................................................

Skip said...

Spam's got weirder, hasn't it?

JahTeh said...

I don't know about weird but this could have been the motto of my divorce. You have very elegant spam, the last one asked me if I'd like my spade to dig harder.