Tag Archives: commuting

Old problem, new experience

17 Nov

This week in Switzerland I have encountered an age-old problem which resulted a new and slightly surprising experience. The three words mostly likely to instill fear and dread into a commuter back home are: replacement bus service.

After 5 years, it was the first time that have experienced this in Switzerland. They are working at night on the train line that runs through our village and, because my German lesson finishes at 9, I had to alight one stop before I would normally and take the bus.

I have taken so many bus replacement services over the year in England and I won’t be coy about it. I hate them. With a passion. I am sure that anyone who had taken them is much of the same view.

Things were different here. The bus is already waiting. The bus looks big enough to take all of the passengers. The driver responds cheerfully when you ask if this bus is going to your stop. It’s like a parallel universe.

Normally the bus replacement takes forever and the bus manages to take a route which virtually passes every residential street in the area and doesn’t seem to go the most direct route. It could be that I was lucky that my stop was the first one but I was actually home only five minutes later than I would be if the train had gone to my stop. I was also quite lucky that the service was at night and the roads were a lot quieter.

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It makes me wonder why more repairs to essential services are not done in the UK at night. It makes it a lot easier and a lot less stressful for commuters. All that seems to happen though, is that the price are increased, the services are worse and no one is happy about it.

Coincidentally, I also noticed this week that they don’t have cat’s eyes in Switzerland. I’m not sure why I haven’t realised this before. I researched this on the internet a bit and it seems that cat’s eyes are only know in UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland and the US. For those of you how don’t know, cat’s eyes are a reflective device that are placed along road markings to help drivers at night. They were invented in England and get their name because the device work on a similar basis as to how cat’s eyes work.

As a child, I was traumatised by someone telling me that they actually put dead cat’s eyes in the middle of the road. I really could imagine roadworks scooping up the dead eyes and cementing them into the middle of the road.

Thankfully that story was not true but every time I see cat’s eyes, I still wonder if the cat had a good life and if he would have wanted to have lived on helping drivers stay safe.

Trends on the train

13 Mar

I have noticed a trend that I find quite worrying on public transport. Or should I say completely irritating rather than worrying?

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Lately I have seen several people on the train using their phones. OK, slightly irritating but mobile phone are so-called because people want to be mobile when they are using them. This I can cope with. What I can’t cope with is people using FaceTime during the journey. On one occasion I saw someone doing this without headphones.

I’m not quite sure what would possess anyone to do this. Z├╝rich is very international and I completely understand that people might want to contact their loved ones in another time zones before it gets to late but why do this on a train packed full of commuters who just want to sit in silence, read the free paper and get home?

If it really is that important to speak to someone via FaceTime on your commute then why not stay behind at work for 10 minutes? Find a meeting room and have a chat with you nearest and dearest in private without strangers listening in to your conversation.

It is infuriating enough to hear one side of a phone conversation on public transport let alone being able to hear little Benjamin or Florence’s excitable shrieks in response to daddy’s questions about how their day at nursery was.I don’t know how social norms come into existence but, in my opinion, this is the opposite of both social and normal.

I even saw a man in the supermarket who was watching a TV series on his phone while shopping. The reason it caught my attention was that he wasn’t using any earphones. He was lholding up the device to his ear to listen to what was happening and not watching what was happening on his screen. If you are really so busy that you can’t sit down and watch the acting (which must be a fundamental of the show or it would just be done on the radio and would save the producers a lot of money) then you shouldn’t even bother.

Even more irritating for me is when someone sit near to me on the train and the music that they are listening via headphones to is so loud that I can hear all of the lyrics of the song. Of course this is irritating but, for me, there is added cause for concern. I used to work for a hearing aid manufacturer and I know the amount of damage that can be done to the ear when it is exposed to loud noise over a prolonged period of time. The ear is a very fragile organ and needs to be protected. The ear didn’t evolve with the intention of having a ear bud shoved down it and Justin Bieber on full blast.

I am never sure if I should politely lean over to my fellow passenger and explain that they might be doing some harm to their ears but I’m not sure if they would be able to hear me or, perhaps more tragic, if they would care about my friendly advice.

I appreciate that I might sound like a bit of a bore but private conversations are called private for a reason. And you might get a few less angry stares from your fellow passengers on the 17.31 if we can all hear a little less of Justin Bieber.