Friday, February 8, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Riverbrook Station, Redux

Riverbrook never had a station before so they had to improvise as it went along. They used confident bidders, domestic steel and concrete to erect a long platform. They screened all their conductors thoroughly, even though the railway provided them. They made the right deals with Amtrak and some stations to the north to assure reliable service.

And then on opening day a little boy leaned over the platform to watch the train come. His mother was preoccupied with The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The boy did not pull back soon enough – which is to say, he didn’t pull back at all. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. He was thrown thirty yards and was distinctly unaware of any miracles when he landed in poison sumac.

It was a horrible thing for Riverbrook. They apologized, made settlements and cleaned. They mourned, even though the boy was alive and from out of town.

Riverbrook put down bumpy yellow plastic to guide people away from the edge of the platform thereafter.

Plenty of people came to take the next train. They had lives. They rushed aboard, and teenage vacationer fell in the gap between the platform and the door. It took half an hour to get her leg free.

They wrote along the yellow bumpy plastic for people to “MIND THE GAP.” The station manager announced the same for the PA before every train.

Apparently this one girl from Florida missed the message and didn’t hear him. She was busy on her cell. She explained such as the station crew pried her knee from the gap.

So for the next day the station manager wandered the platform, explaining that some people had troubles boarding and to be very careful. Elderly patrons appreciated the attention, but some of the younger ones thought he was crazy and disregarded the message. One of them was threatening to sue twenty minutes later when he fell in all the way to the waist.

So the station manager and every free person on staff wandered the platform afterwards, making certain every single person had a thorough lecture on how to board a train. No one was allowed to board before they had all been lectured. It held up the rail schedule terribly. It also took so long that people who had been lectured grew impatient, missed some crucial step in the instructions, and three people stumbled into the gap that afternoon.

Conductors were ordered to carry everyone onto the train, as passengers clearly couldn’t be trusted with this kind of responsibility. But as Wesley Morgan carried his third passenger on board his back went out and he staggered backwards through the door. You can guess where his left foot went. He was the most pleasant of the gap-victims, though; he was looking forward to suing someone, and possibly retiring early.

The Riverbrook Station saw so many accidents that they were still unsafe by the time particle teleporters were introduced. The station manager happily handed over the keys to a physicist. He babbled warnings about queuing order how a size ten shoe can pass through a three inch space. The physicist shrugged him off and invited his first passenger. That was the first time any teleporter commuter ever lost a foot.

23 comments:

  1. Yup, no legislating against idiocy, nor any safety measure that can't fail if the users don't take care.

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  2. Ah you can tell the people, but will they listen eh! Mind the gap!

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  3. footloose and fancy free would-be travellers become simply foot-free

    charming was the word for this small town tale

    marc nash

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  4. I love the idea of being carried onto the train for my own safety. It worries me that in this world teleporting would quickly become a very dull process.

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  5. Damn the luck. I don't know how many times I've kicked off my shoes in an airport and fantasized about the old Star Trek transpoter. Wouldn't you know when it is finally introduced, it only transports passengers from the platform onto a train and they still end up minus a shoe. Funny reality check.

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  6. I vote to remove all health and safety signs and leave it to natural selection!

    Third hand claim to fame: the voice of of the "Mind the gap" recording on the London Underground belongs to a friend of a friend of mine

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  7. Yep, I have personal experience that those teenagers that never listen and I'm certain, (if we lived in a town with such transport), my 14 year old would lose a foot. :)

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  8. This had me chuckling throughout. Quick fix: in the second paragraph you have "pulled" where I think you meant "Pull" as in "He didn't pull back at all".

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  9. I could totally buy this happening. It's future history. *sigh*

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  10. This is so good! Your writing is getting better and better. This is a great piece.

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  11. Health and Safety gone crazy...but it's not far from the truth. I have to show trainers at work that I know how to remove a meal tray from a trolly and present it without damaging my back. I have to do this every year, forever.
    I like the line about carrying people on board; it's understated in its irony.
    Thanks for the comments on free writing you left over at my blog.

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  12. This is truth is stranger than fiction, right...?

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  13. Safety first! You'd think they could throw some sort of temporary bridge over the gap, huh? I absolutely loved the part about "[he was] distinctly unaware of any miracles when he landed in poison sumac."

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  14. Considering my dad's a retired train Conductor I quite enjoyed this. Funny how some things will never change.

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  15. Brilliant. I once jumped from a pick up to a concrete platform and landed flat on my face. Sometimes things just happen :p.

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  16. haha!! I know this is fiction.. sort of, as the saying goes "You couldn't make it up, could you?" :-)

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  17. Love the visual of conductors having to carry everyone on board. (Although I don't think I'd trust any of our local fellows.)

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  18. John this is brilliant - some people just think they are different to the rest and theres no telling them, then Karma (or stupidity!) just bites them on the behind...Great piece, I loved it

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  19. Perfectly sums up Health & Safety!

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  20. Stupidity prolongs throughout the ages no matter what. Yup.
    Great portrayal of situations so possible.

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  21. So it seems that future travel is wrought with the same perils as modern day travel? Namely, ourselves?

    Brilliant work, John!

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