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Phones and buses - John C. Kirk

Nov. 27th, 2004

04:19 am - Phones and buses

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Wow, been a while since I last updated my LJ. Just not enough hours in the day nowadays... Anyway, some late-night ranting now, and more positive stuff later.

As some final thoughts on my nuisance calls (not repeated since I changed my number), I think that there is a fundamental flaw in the current legal strategy. I can understand why the police/BT may be reluctant to investigate the caller without proof, if it's just my word against his, but that doesn't apply here (because of the answerphone message). And the "first offence" issue only means that it's the first time he's bothered me. In an extreme case, you could get someone doing the Hitchhiker's Guide hobby of working his way through the phone book, abusing each person in turn. Surely it would make more sense to take my details, then look up the phone number for themselves, and see whether they have any other complaints against that person? I may contact my MP about this (on the grounds that the government makes the laws), although I'm not sure whether that's the best place to start.

On a separate issue, Magic FM (the TV channel, not the radio station) had a Kylie themed weekend recently. Basically, they play music videos (with advert breaks), and each video has an ID number. While they're playing one video, they have a list of other songs appearing at the bottom of the screen (also available on teletext). The idea is that if you want to see a particular video, you dial their premium rate number (which costs £1) and type in its 3 digit number. I wasn't quite sure how it worked, but I figured that I could afford a quid to watch a video that I haven't seen for ages ("Tears on my pillow"), so I rang the number. I was expecting that the system would either say "Your video is up next" (like call-in requests on the radio), or "Your request is in the queue, and will be played at 15:45" (inserting whatever time). Instead, they just said "Thanks for your call, and keep watching to see the video you requested." I recorded the next hour and a half, while I went out, and then watched it on fast-forward when I got back (which took about 5-10 minutes), with no sign of that video. I then left it on for another hour or so after that, in the background, and still no sign. I may have missed it in that brief window, but that still seems like a long time to wait. I'm not actually accusing them of fraud, since they may well have played the video eventually (which was all they advertised/promised), but I don't think it's good value for money; if they want me to stay watching their channel all day (including adverts), then they shouldn't be charging me for the privilege! So, if you're tempted by an offer like that, think again.

easterbunny was asking recently why nobody challenges people who smoke on public transport. Here's one possible explanation...

A copy of the email I've just sent to Customer Services at London Buses:


I am writing to ask for clarification about your "no smoking" policy on buses, and more specifically its enforcement.

Last night (Friday 26th November), I caught the 214 bus from Highgate at about 23:50. I used my Oyster card (number xxxxxxxxxx xx), in case that helps you to identify the vehicle/driver in question.

When I boarded the bus, there was another passenger already on board, who was sitting there saying "fuck off" every few seconds. This was annoying, but I didn't say anything. He then lit up a cigarette. I waited for a minute or two, in case the driver planned to do anything about this, but nothing happened. I then spoke to the passenger myself, making an effort to be polite.

Me: "Excuse me, could you put that cigarette out please?"
Him: "Why?"
Me (pointing at "no smoking" sign): "Because you're not allowed to smoke on the bus, and I don't want to breathe it."
Him: "The bus driver said I could."

I then went and spoke to the bus driver, and asked "Is it ok with you that he's smoking?" The bus driver called back "No smoking on the bus", which had no effect at all. Since the driver showed no sign of doing anything else, I dealt with the situation myself - I went over to the passenger, forcibly removed the cigarette, and threatened to hurt him if he lit up again.

I then went back to the driver, and told him to do his job, so that I didn't have to do it for him. He said "Don't speak to me like that, I'm pissed off with people like you, and I'll kick your arse off the bus." I told him that he was welcome to try, but he didn't follow through on this. When the other passenger got off the bus later, he exchanged friendly words with the driver, suggesting that they know each other.

So, apparently the London Transport policy says:

* Smoking isn't allowed, unless you're a friend of the driver, in which case it's ok.
* Telling the driver to do his job is extremely bad.

Is this correct, or was the driver breaking your rules? If the latter, how do you intend to deal with this? Just to clarify this, at no point did I swear at or threaten the driver.

In the general case, I can understand why a driver might be reluctant to confront a passenger if he was afraid that he'd put himself at risk by doing so. However, in this case I wasn't asking him to do anything that I was unwilling to do myself, as I proved by my own actions. The motivation here seems to be "anything for a quiet life". And presumably the driver has other resources available to him, e.g. calling the police. Bluntly, he gets paid to deal with situations like this, whereas I don't.

I suspect that you may not approve of my actions, in which case I would genuinely like to know what you would recommend as an alternative. Bearing in mind what I had already tried, I only saw three options:

a) Deal with the situation myself, as I did.

b) Sit there and ignore it, i.e. continue breathing his smoke. If this is your official policy, then I look forward to the many lawsuits that await you in the future. At the very least it seems like false advertising.

c) Get off the bus and wait for the next one. This would of course delay my journey, and there's no guarantee that the next bus would be smoke-free, so in an extreme case I'd keep getting off at each stop along the way and waiting for the next bus. It would wind up being quicker for me to walk! And for someone who didn't have a travelcard, this would get quite expensive, buying a new ticket for each short journey. Even with a travelcard, it doesn't seem like good value for money.

I await your response with interest.

Yours faithfully,

John Kirk


Edit: As of 2nd June 2007, I never received a reply to this. I have since heard (informally) that it's not part of the bus driver's job to enforce rules like this, because they'd be putting themselves at risk if they left their cabs. That's fair enough, although it doesn't explain why London Underground never replied to my email. Still, the implication is that if something similar happens then the "correct" response is to phone British Transport Police.

More and more I can understand the motivation to wear a cape and set the world to rights...


[User Picture]
Date:December 6th, 2004 06:08 am (UTC)
Don't forget to update if they ever write you back. :)

*beams at you proudly*
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