Saturday, January 01, 2005

Virgin Trains, Stockport and Toilets: a Cautionary Tale

Having been away to various parts of the country, most of which involved Stockport, I've now got a blog backlog, which is difficult to say if you're chewing on a pen.

As it's on my mind, I'll start with a tale of woe that will have you in tears.

A journey on Virgin Trains, returning from an eventful and enjoyable new year's eve. Train journey also eventful, but less obviously enjoyable. Gripped by an entirely natural, but not all that pressing desire to go to the toilet, I went to the nearest one in my carriage. Being one of Branson's new fleet, a sleek electric door slides open with a hiss. No toilet paper though. On to the next. Sleek shiny door opens with hiss, but refuses to close, with hiss or without. Consider throwing caution to the wind and going anyway. The caution, though, would be for indecent exposure, and possibly be more a custodial sentence than a caution.

This happy game is interrupted by an announcement that owing to a computer glitch, the train would be terminating at Rugby. Off the train, decide that platform toilets are likely to be freer of malfunction. A man crouched down in front of the Gent's says that the lock is bust, and suggests that I use the disabled toilet. Resisting the dadlike pedantic desire to tell him that this toilet, and indeed all the toilets I've tried to use on the journey have in some way been disabled, wander off in the direction of his point. Need a key to get in though, so humpf my way to customer services, where the man says he'll get the key for me in a sec, and then makes an announcement over the PA that, er, actually, we can all get back on the train we've just got off. To my delight, everyone gets back in the exact seats they had before they were expelled - Passengers of the 1730 from Stockport to Euston, you've made a weird man strangely happy. Resume my quest. Further up the train, encounter a toilet which refuses to flush away the last occupant's offering and has a non-electric door, traditional in all respects except its refusal to shut or lock. Finally, in the first class carriage, lending weight to my pseudo-socialist paranoia, I find a toilet that meet meets my needs, sitting on which I realise that combining the paper of the second toilet with the locking of the first would have made toilets three, four, five and six unnecessary.

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