Roland Dürre
Tuesday February 10th, 2009

Rolling Home – the Small Problems you Face when Going by Train

Yesterday was a good day. I made good use of the morning in the train to do what work had accumulated. Then I met Reinhard Kraasch, my wikipedia mentor face-to-face for the first time and later discussed future plans with Florian Prange. I enjoyed my presentation at Lehmann/GuuG, the audience was nice and competent and we had a really nice discussion afterwards. Afterwards, some of us went for a glass of beer and everybody felt comfortable and loved.

The problems started this morning at 0:15 hours. I was going to take the night train CNL 483 to Munich and cosily make my slow way to home (departure in Hamburg 00:31 hours, arrival in Munich 8:58 hours). That would bring me home to my desk at InterFace in good health and spirits no later than 10:00 o’ clock. .

Then came the unpleasant news: the incoming train from Copenhagen will be late by 100 minutes. So where to go now? At night, you have only two options at Hamburg Central Station, said the nice lady at the information point: either the “Salvation Army” or “McDonalds”. While looking for suitable locations, I met another traveller, a director from the Netherlands who was on his way to the toy fare in Nürnberg and had also booked a place in the sleeping compartment. We decided to wait together. Since we did not really know about the “Salvation Army”, we went for a cup of coffee at McDonalds. On the way there, we saw the display change: the train was going to be 140 minutes late!

At 2.00 hours (about 90 minutes after the train should have arrived), we returned to the information point and asked about the current state of affairs. The same 140 minutes delay as before were confirmed and we went back to drink another cup of coffee at McDonalds. Another 20 minutes later, we thought it prudent to slowly go back – and all we saw of our train were the rear lights! Since there are no loudspeakers in the McDonalds restaurants (as opposed to airports, where you can hear announcements throughout the entire building), we were not the only victims of the train officially having been announced to be 2 hours and 20 minutes late and then coming in less than 2 hours late.

The persons behind the service desk looked a little embarrassed. Allegedly, the train had caught up considerably, but the display never took that up. Unfortunately, there had been no other information for the service persons to give than what they themselves had seen on the monitors. And sincere apologies were made all around that the guests in the “Salvation Army” restaurant had been informed when the train arrived, but that the customers of McDonalds had simply been forgotten. Well – the next connection to Munich would be at 3.18 hours with a change of trains in Fulda.

I was not really motivated to take that connection, so I looked for a hotel and slept a few hours in Hamburg. Now I am sitting in the ICE 785 (departure from Hamburg at 8.03 hours, arrival in Munich 13.39 hours) and enjoying the ministrations of a nice female train attendant. And as soon as this article is written, I will lie down and do some sleeping.

The reason I am relating this is because it is symptomatic for our time. We trust blindly in technical display systems, even though we know that they are often less than reliable. It is not like there were really lots of trains still active during that night in Hamburg and I am sure this particular train is hardly ever that late. Asking specifically for information, like service persons would have done in former times, could certainly have prevented this mistake. But it has become the exception to the rule today to use extra brains and start additional initiatives – maybe it is not even possible any more.

My train is just now arriving in Göttingen. There is an announcement for all departing passengers to exit carefully because the platforms are icy. People requiring additional help must not hesitate to call an attendant (!).


2 Kommentare zu “Rolling Home – the Small Problems you Face when Going by Train”

  1. Jerry (Thursday February 12th, 2009)

    Mc Donalds, Bildungsmisere Deutschland, Darwin, Lamark,…

    Und ja, diese Schilderung kommt mir irgendwie bekannt vor 😉


  2. rd (Thursday February 12th, 2009)

    Jerry war ein Mitreisender – Roland

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