My email to Weis (ice creams)

The recent Commonwealth Bank ad featuring Toni Collette got me thinking about celebrity endorsement.

Before celebrities became “brands” and were capable of lending their “brand cache” to other “brands”, what happened?

Has the celebrity/company negotiation always gone like this:

Company: Want to promote our product?

Celebrity: I’m not sure. I don’t really wear hats.

Company: We’re a car manufacturer.

Celebrity: I see.

Company: So…

Celebrity: I’m not really interested.

Company: Here’s seven hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars.

Celebrity: I love your cars. Want me to get nude?

Or was there once a golden age where celebrities approached companies and said “Hey, I quite like your shoes. I’ll do an ad for two bob and a can of Tarax sarsaparilla“?

If I were to become a celebrity (and I don’t know why I just used the subjunctive mood, because I already am one) and went back in time to this yet-to-be-confirmed golden age, my first port of call would almost certainly be the Weis ice cream company. I would endorse them feverishly, sleeping only three hours a day (at the very most), and probably dying of exhaustion in my mid 40s (a happy man).

I set down some of the reasons why in an email I just sent to Weis today:

Image

Dear Weis,

Just a quick note to say your raspberries and vanilla bean ice cream bars are in the top ten things ever invented by anyone in the history of civilisation.

In fact, all your products are bloody delicious and the fact you remain an Australian-owned company swells my chest with the kind of green and gold pride that makes me want to look in a mirror and tell myself “Stop puffing out your chest – you look like a wanker and you’re bringing attention to yourself”.

Your ice creams are better than Pat Rafter and Geoffrey Rush, making them the best things to come out of Queensland in the state’s 150-year history.

Your ice creams are better than steam trains.

Your ice creams are better than the very last illustration in the book Possum Magic where an echidna is looking slightly grumpy because it has a magic star stuck in its quills.

Your ice creams are better than the twist at the end of The Usual Suspects.

Your ice creams are better than esteemed symphony orchestras playing theme songs from computer games.

Your ice creams are better than putting your hand in the pocket of a little-worn coat, feeling paper currency, pulling it out hoping to see Banjo Paterson and seeing Sir John Monash instead.

Your ice creams are better than those fireworks that retain their shape so that they look like giant, ephemeral sky globes.

Your ice creams are better than art deco ceiling roses.

Your ice creams are better than Worcestershire sauce on lamb chops.

Your ice creams are better than a soft cat’s fur.

Your ice creams are better than watching small children bamboozle adults with simple logic.

Your ice creams are better than beating Carlton.

Your ice creams are better than stumbling upon ripe wild strawberries while gardening.

Your ice creams are better than Yarra Trams reply emails.

Your ice creams are better than those Dyson hand driers that dry your hands in half a millisecond.

If your ice creams were a footballer they would be Lenny Hayes (anyone who doesn’t like him must be considered morally unsound and mentally deficient).

If your ice creams were a character from the 1970s Japanese television shows Monkey’ they would be the amusing horse.

If your ice creams were contestants on ‘MasterChef’ they would ignore the advice and direction of the producers, refuse to speak in the present tense during cutaway interviews, never cry, and say things like “My family was the furthest thing from my mind while I was cooking this dish” and “Gary, I couldn’t give a stuff what you’d be doing given the same circumstances; why don’t you fuck off and let me cook.”

If your ice creams met Kyle Sandilands in the street they would punch him straight in the dick.

Your ice creams make me want to dance at parties, even though I am very very shy and have no rhythm or coordination.

Your ice creams make me want to write classical music in the manner of Claude Debussey.

Your ice creams make me want to turn brief complimentary notes into wildly over-written love letters, comparing the object of my affection to fire works and hand driers.

Your raspberries and vanilla bean ice cream bars are in the top ten things ever invented by anyone in the history of civilisation and the fact they haven’t yet been heritage listed is an absolute disgrace.

With love and the least amount of sarcasm or irony I’ve ever put in a letter to anyone – even my wife,

Jonathan Rivett

Haught fact of the day:

I lied; I will never dance at a party.

Other emails I’ve sent:

Haught is on twitter

Digi-vigilantism is even better in 140 characters or less:

@HaughtFeelings

The #FreeAnnie campaign [VICTORY]

At the end of last month you might recall that I began the #FreeAnnie campaign. If you didn’t catch the post or if the details are a bit HB-pencil sketchy in your mind, you can find it here.

In the immortal words of Professor Farnsworth, “Who likes good news? Everyone? Then: ‘Good news, everyone’.

Annie sent me this message yesterday:

Haughty-Haught-Haught… Can I take a moment to thank you for your help? I’ve just received official notice that the robots who issued my infringement notice have been reprogrammed, rebooted and have come to their senses… (Or, at very least, the higher ups were not appreciating the #FreeAnnie campaign/ my incessant letters).

My infringement notice has been officially re-reviewed and Metro Trains’ plans for world domination (one $180 fine at a time) have been derailed!

Yep, #FreeAnnie led to free Annie. Well, that’s what I’m claiming.

So if you read and ‘liked’ the post, and particularly if you passed it on, used the #FreeAnnie hashtag on Twitter (@Jay3199 – magnificent!), talked about it with friends, gave a dirty look to a ticket inspector post-#FreeAnnie, or sent me any kind of correspondence re: the campaign, consider yourself a successful public transport activist.

There’s only one downside to Annie’s emancipation: the following email will never get put to practical use:

Dear Department of Transport,

In May, a commuter by the name of Annie [surname redacted] was booked by a Metro Trains Authorised Officer after she was unable to produce a valid ticket within an arbitrary period of time. Shortly after the ticket inspectors had left the carriage, Annie’s Metcard fell out of the book she was reading.

She wrote to you, detailing exactly what had happened and requesting that the $180 fare evasion fine be quashed. Instead of responding with the reasons why this was, or was not, possible, you chose to write her a letter listing the stock standard excuses fare evaders give you when hoping to have their fines overturned. It was like a David Letterman top 10, but with even more world-weariness and more than a small touch of the snide about it.

To me, this kind of response is incomprehensible, full stop. But when you add the fact that not one of the excuses had the vaguest relevance to Annie’s case, your effort goes from budgie-attacking-its-own-reflection silly to young-people-shrieking-for-no-apparent-reason-in-an-ad-for-bourbon farcical.

Imagine if all legal systems ran on the basis that the guilt of the accused should be determined by how fed up the accuser is with the defences offered by those previously accused of the same crime or misdemeanour.

Imagine if everyday life worked that way!

Think about what would happen if this strange new convention you seem to have created could be applied by those who use your rail network.

Dear Department of Transport,

Thank you for your questions regarding my non-payment of fares. 

You can probably understand that, as a commuter, I receive hundreds of excuses from Metro Trains and the Department of Transport every week. These include:

  • There was a signal fault
  • There was an ill passenger
  • There was a defective train
  • There was congestion at Flinders Street
  • One of the doors won’t open
  • One of the doors won’t close
  • Something about an overhead power line
  • One word: vandals
  • Melbourne is too small to make regular trains viable
  • There are too many new customers
  • There’s been a lack of investment (from both sides of politics)
  • We need more rolling stock
  • We need more stock that is propelled by electricity, in addition to having the capacity to roll
  • Overcrowding is slowing down trains
  • It was a very wet day
  • It was a very dry day
  • It was a very hot day
  • It was a very cold day
  • It was a mild day, but passengers were doing myki wrong
  • The system would run better without passengers
  • The system would run better without trains
  • The system would run better without the system
  • We were busy
  • We’re still getting the hang of this electrification of the network thing
  • We got distracted
  • It’s mostly your fault
  • The moon went behind a cloud
  • There was a gunman at the station
  • The dog ate our blueprint for improvement
  • Our performance statistics tell a different story
  • We thought we saw a wolf hiding in a bush and we got scared
  • Pardon our progress
  • One word: unions
  • There was a problem with the swirler thing that regulates the big machine that makes a noise like this: “brip brip”
  • Someone put an advertisement over the driver’s window and the train effectively became blind (on the plus side, we added to our monthly profit)
  • The on-board sundial was off kilter
  • Camels replaced trains at Clifton Hill and one of the camels bit some people
  • We’re moving backwards, but don’t worry, we wrote a poem about moving forwards
  • Research tells us people like sitting in the Jolimont Rail Yards for up to twenty-five minutes at a time
  • It’s the drivers’ fault
  • We thought we had enough trains, but we didn’t so we had to buy some old rattlers off a collector, who was mean and sold them to us at an exorbitant rate and now we don’t have any money left to improve the system
  • Our sextant was bent
  • A combination of factors, going forward, has meant that the system has become temporarily suboptimal across many of its key performance measures, going forward (but  we have got some good take outs from this situation and are implementing many of the learnings, going forward)
  • One word: jabberwocky
  • Our operations centre still uses computers that show chunky green text and possess 3 kilobytes of memory
  • We keep getting kerosene and paraffin mixed up
  • There are many many trains but only a few stations – you do the maths
  • A wil-o-the-whisp got into one of the engines
  • We thought we saw a wolf… again
  • Connex left the whole place in a mess
  • The Met left the whole place in a mess
  • The Indigenous people of what is now metropolitan Melbourne left the whole place in a mess
  • One word: wolves
  • Someone literally threw a spanner in the works
  • Well, hang on a second – could we at least finish our lunch?

In light of this, and having carefully read your submission, unfortunately, I cannot change my decision to ride on your trains for free at this time. 

Thank you for having me as your non-paying patron. 

Sincerely… etc


You can sniff and scoff at your customers’ “excuses” all you like, but let’s be honest, to any reasonable, fair-minded person,  “I didn’t have the correct coin change to pay for a fare that now costs $11.90” is far easier to accept than the circular logic of “Overcrowding is leading to late trains”.

Terrible things happen on your trains every single day. Passengers punch other passengers. Inebriates vomit all over seats and down aisles. Smart-alec little heroes ride between carriages screaming abuse at anyone who looks at them from inside the train. Fat slobs somehow manage to take up four seats. People barge on before anyone else has had a chance to get off. And you’re going to fine a woman because she forgot she was using her Metcard as a bookmark and not even extend her the courtesy of explaining why?

You expect as a kind of birthright an epic benefit of the doubt from Melburnians. How about giving it back once in a while?

Sincerely,

Jonathan Rivett

Or will I just send it, anyway?

Haught fact of the day:

I only made up two of those Metro/Department of Transport excuses listed above.

An ode to cant

I’m pretty sure every single blogger in Australia has had a crack at parodying the ‘Ode to can’ poem in the Commonwealth Bank TV commercial featuring Toni Collette.

In fact so many people have seen the ad, found it irksome, and decided to take the piss out of it, that there’s a very good chance the poem below has at some time been uttered, if not published, verbatim by at least four separate people in the last ten days.

But who said Haught Feelings was original?

There’s a four lettered word,
Something called a contraction,
That likes to create
‘Can’ and ‘not’ interaction.

“You can’t ride that hippo.”
“You can’t drink the sea.”
Can’t is a word that protects you and me.

She can’t throw that javelin
Inside the school hall.
He can’t ride a tank
Through the rich people’s ball.

Can’t is a word
That is good at forestalling
The death of known fuckwits
(Which can sometimes be galling).
But we all know deep down
In our hearts it’s much needed;
The directive “you can’t!”
Is why mankind’s succeeded.

Now, those four little letters
That CommBank reject
Used without punctuation
Make a word we neglect.

When we change can’t to cant
We remove much duress.
We get licence to use words
Like “dream” and “progress”.

We say “build”. We say “run”.
We say “follow the sun.”
(That last one sounds odd
But the first two were fun.)
They’re the ad’s own directions,
They’re cant to a T.
And cant is what big banks
Do best, don’t you see?

OK, now if you’re a well-known Australian film or TV personality willing to read my version while sitting in a forest clearing, reading a pretend book of poetry in front of a massive CANT monument, contact me at haughtfeelings@gmail.com

Haught fact of the day:

Cant
noun

1. Insincere statements, especially conventional pretence of enthusiasm for high ideals; insincere expressions of goodness or piety.
2. The special vocabulary peculiar to the members of an underworld group.
3. Whining speech, such as that used by beggars.
4. The special terminology understood among the members of a profession, discipline, or class but obscure to the general population; jargon.

Other ads I formally don’t like:
The Jim Beam ad where young people make different types of shrieking noises for no apparent reason.

THE RESPONSE: My email to Metro Trains

In May I sent an email to Metro Trains. It started out as an opportunity for the Big Blue M to test their complaint response writing skills against the new public transport (and possibly the world) standard. It ended as an angry diatribe, I’ll admit. For this reason, if Metro had erred slightly on the side of conservatism in their reply, I would have given them some latitude.

They didn’t, however, err on the side of conservatism so much as put every single egg they’ve ever owned into the conservative basket:

Dear Jonathan

We thank you for your extensive critique of our running of Melbourne’s train network.

Your commentary is appreciated and we will consider your suggestions along with others, as we continue to do all we can to ensure Melburnians get the train service they all deserve in one of the world’s great cities.

We’re not there yet, Jonathan, but if you’ll pardon our progress, we’re getting there.

You have outlined a number of general observations and experiences which we are keen to address and consider a meeting would be the most appropriate forum to discuss your concerns.

Please let us know of your preferred date and time. We look forward to meeting with you.

We do ask for your patience as we seek to transform Melbourne’s railway to accommodate what we promise will be a world class service.

Yours sincerely

Angela Marotta

Customer Relations Manager

Big tick for spelling ‘Melburnians’ right. Not so keen on the “pardon our progress” line. But let’s get to the good bit: the suggestion that we meet.

Why beat around the bush? They’re going to whack me, aren’t they?

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately we may not be able to accommodate your suggested meeting time of 2.30 pm. Can we instead organise to meet at 2.30 am at the abandoned warehouse beside the Mobil Oil Terminal in Yarraville? (It’s the one closest to the river.) 

The possibility of being killed execution style  is one reason not to accept their offer.

On the opposite side of the gangster scenario ledger, I have for a long time fantasised about reenacting the Joe Pesci “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas in a real-life situation:

Me: Anyway… so I’m sitting down with Sam Marshall, and we’ve both had a couple of drinks each, and he says to me, he says “I thought when I first came into the bar you actually would be wearing a white chiffon scarf.”

[The Metro Trains contingent laugh uproariously]

Young Metro Representative: [laughing, wiping a tear from his eye] You’re funny. You’re really funny.

Me: What do you mean I’m funny?

YMR: It’s funny. You know. That was a funny story. We love your blog. It’s funny. You’re a funny guy. [laughing forcedly]

Me: What do you mean? The way I talk? What?

YMR: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny… the way you told that story and everything.

[everyone has stopped laughing]

Me: Funny how? What’s funny about it?

Older Metro Representative: Jonnie, no. You’ve got it all wrong.

Me: Hoh – whoa. He’s a big boy. He knows what he said. What did you say? Funny how? You mean…  let me understand this, because, you know, maybe it’s me… I’m a little fucked up maybe, but… I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I write my blog to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

YMR: Just… you know, how you tell the story, you know… What?

Me:  No, no, I don’t know. You said it! How do I know? You said I’m funny. [running out of breath] How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what’s funny!

Unlike Tommy DeVito, I probably wouldn’t ever admit I was joking, though.

Seriously though, they must think I’m funny. So funny that I have some kind of disproportionate societal influence, enough to warrant a formal brainwashing session.  And that’s what it will be – surely.

The alternative would be addressing, point-by-point, my email criticisms:

Metro Representative: “…OK – so if you’re happy with that explanation of why our staff member spent 90 seconds blasting the contents of his bronchial tubes into an empty coffee cup in preference to doing his job, we can move on to the possibility of having a fully-platinum train in operation before 2017…”

What on earth could they possibly tell me in person that they can’t tell me via email? “Going forward” is just as hollow out of a person’s mouth as it is on paper.

Maybe this is where I need to get creative:

Dear Angela,

Thank you very much for the invitation to meet in person. Do you mind if I bring along a couple of people I know who are just as disappointed with your service as I am? If that’s sounds fair to you, are you aware of any venues in Melbourne that seat 4 million people?

or

Dear Angela,

Yes, a meeting is undoubtedly the best way to discuss my numerous concerns. And by meeting I mean a televised debate simulcast across every single TV station in Australia, including the ABC and SBS, and all the digital ones, except that one that shows people having their fortunes told. 

or

Dear Angela,

I would very much like to meet to discuss my criticisms. Although perhaps “discuss” is the wrong word. How would you feel about addressing my concerns as part of a stage musical with your CEO as the leading lady? It doesn’t have to be original

“Trains were on time when old hacks were retired
When inspectors were kind
And our carriages  inviting
Trains were on time when profits weren’t required
And the world was a ride
And the ride was exciting
Trains were on time
Then it all went wrong

We dreamed a dream of trains on time.
When hope was high
And life worth living
We dreamed of stations in the sky
We dreamed of punters more forgiving…”

or

Dear Angela,

A meeting sounds like a fine idea. Can we do it like the Sooty Show where if I don’t like one of your explanations I squirt you in the face with a water pistol or dramatically slam my face into a full bowl of cereal, spraying you with milk? 

But let’s be honest, I’m not going to meet with them. What would be the point? What new information will I get? Are they withholding important  information from the public which they only release to smart-alec bloggers? And if (hilariously) they are – is it going to be honest and insightful stuff? Is it going to answer not only my mostly flippant questions, but also the serious questions raised by people who know the system inside out, including Metro’s own drivers (some of whom are making astonishing claims about the dishonest practices and policies carried out by their employers)?

But my main concern – my main concern by far – is that if I organised a time to meet, I would then need to catch a train to get to that meeting. And the last thing I’d want to do is turn up late to such an important appointment.

Haught Feelings would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The #FreeAnnie campaign

If you think the way Melbourne’s train system operates has to change, get involved in the #FreeAnnie campaign.

Haught fact of the day:

According to IMBD, the “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas came out of a real life experience Joe Pesci had had when he was much younger. The director, Martin Scorsese, allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene without telling the numerous other actors involved what would happen.

The #FreeAnnie campaign

As The Age reported this week Metro Trains has, over the last year, gone into a fine dispensing frenzy.

One of the people they’ve nabbed during this period of sustained blame-shifting and misdirection is a Haught reader by the name of Annie.

Last week she wrote to me about her recent experience on a Metro train and her subsequent correspondence with the Department of Transport.

Her emails were charming, vivid and compelling. (They also included brazen raunch; during one paragraph I fainted.)

It seems that some overzealous Metro Trains Authorised Officers, followed by the Department of Transport, have got the delightful Annie mixed up with a  fare-evading black squiggle non-entity, as represented in this advertising campaign.

From her emails alone I can tell that Annie is not a scribble-based
organism. And if she is, she’s probably a vibrantly coloured one. Annie, told me in her emails to me that “I never forget to buy a ticket because it matters to me to have a healthy transport system – and the only way Melbourne’s shitty system will improve is through use and investment by the people (fares).”

With this in mind, have a read of Annie’s case:

  • Annie is on the train minding her business, reading high-quality Australian future fiction
  • Annie is interrupted by Metro Train Authorised Officers, who ask for her ticket
  • Annie can’t immediately find her Metcard and begins to search her oversized bag
  • The Authorised Officers put a very short time limit on the search, as if they’re game show hosts and Annie is a nervous contestant
  • When the time limit has elapsed, one of the Officers says “Bzzz” and the other one gets out a pencil, licks it like they did in the old days, and starts writing an infringement notice
  • As the Officers walk away, Annie makes an apologetic, I’m-not-a-black-squiggle face at some of the scowling busy-body passengers around her, composes herself,  then reopens her book and sees the Metcard fall out from inside the jacket – but it’s too late: the Officers have moved onto the next carriage
  • Several days laterAnnie receives a $180 fine

Pretty straightforward, is it not?

You’d think if Annie simply wrote a polite email to the Department of Transport explaining what had happened and providing the ticket as proof of her innocence, common sense would prevail and the fine would be quashed.

But no.

Not only was her appeal fruitless, the response email was a catalogue of irrelevant drivel. Rather than explaining to Annie why the fine would be upheld, the letter veered off onto a bewildering tangent,  listing the most common excuses the Department receives from those wishing to have their fare evasion fine overturned:

“I was running for the train”, “the queue was too long”, “I did not know it was a coin only machine”, “I was going to validate at the end of my trip”, “I forgot”, “I did not understand the zones or system”, “I only had a $20 note”.

What the Department of Transport appear to be doing is not only dismissing perfectly legitimate claims, but responding to these claims with about as much tact, professionalism and intelligence as the “Computer says no” woman from Little Britain.

Imagine if this approach to justice was conventional in the wider legal system.

Judge: “The prosecution’s case was flimsy and there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the defendant killed his mother. The defendant is obviously a model citizen and numerous people have, under oath, declared that they were with him in Melbourne at the time his mother was murdered in Brisbane. Here are some of the reasons convicted murderers have previously given this court for taking the lives of close family members: “I was acting in self defence”, “I slipped… repeatedly”, “I forgot that murder was a crime”, “I don’t know my own strength”, “I set fire to the house believing it was vacant”. I find the defendant guilty and sentence him to 35 years in prison.”

Now, I concede that I don’t know Annie personally. I concede that she may be telling fibs. I concede that she could have somehow acquired a Metcard valid in exactly the right time period and zone after being legitimately booked for fare evasion, and sent it to the Department of Transport as dodgy proof of her innocence.

That seems about as unlikely as Metro’s performance statistics, though.

Low blow? Yeah, well, here’s the problem: if Metro and the Government want to adhere to a policy of cynicism, mistrust and never giving the benefit of the doubt, they have to understand that two can play at that game.

If the best they can do when justifying individual fines is let out a great big sigh about how weary they are of bad excuses, they might want to think about tightening up their own material.

“Due to a signal fault…”, “due to an ill passenger…”, “due to congestion on the network…”, “due to a defective train…”, “due to an unprecedented surge in passenger numbers…”, “due to chronic underinvestment in the system…”

Are those ad nauseum excuses somehow less tiresome than the ones detailed in the letter Annie received?

If you can detect a little bit of hypocrisy here, and think a $180 fine for not producing a ticket hiding inside a book is excessive, start talking about it.

How good would it be if we could get #FreeAnnie trending on Twitter. How good would it be if we caused such a stir on Facebook that the Department of Transport were forced to withdraw their arrogant dismissal of her letter? How good would it be if, by sharing, commenting and discussing we made some change – however small – to the way train passengers are treated in Melbourne?

Want to give it a crack?

UPDATE:

The campaign worked!

Well, Annie has been freed and there was a campaign. And the campaign came before Annie’s fine was waived, so…

Read all about it here.

A [FAUX] RESPONSE: My email to Metro Trains

Last week I sent an email to Metro Trains.

I haven’t yet heard anything back from an official representative, but reader Veloaficionado has had an excellent stab at responding on their behalf:

Dear Mr Haught,

As a representative of Metro, I will take the opportunity to reply to your latest letter. At Metro, we pride ourselves on keeping abreast of all commentary on our performance, and although some may call this paranoid and in the vein of witch-huntery, Section G-37-B is very good at its job. The surveillance equipment they deploy is second to none, and the data encryption and database security employed is world class, deep within the reinforced concrete 3rd basement level where it is stored.

So rest assured that we are aware of your reputation and previous correspondence with other instrumentalities and businesses, and we wish to reassure you that we take your views of our performance very seriously.

However, we must take issue with absolutely everything that you say, even that we seem to employ public image management that is somewhat amateurish and implausible, or to you, it seems, laughable. We have spent a substantial amount of public money on such well-credentialed public relations advisors, who have offices in major European capitals and both the east and west coasts of the US.

We have to trim our expenses elsewhere, perforce. Only supplying paper cups to our employees for the purposes of expectoration, is, regrettably, one of these. In the “good old days”, of non-benchmarked performance, full public ownership and trains that always ran on time (with the greatest extent of track of any metropolitan transport system in the southern hemisphere in the late 1940s), even the most monosyllabic long-term employee of 25 and more years standing could look forward to a silver-chased, embossed leather personal foldable spittoon as recognition of years of arduous service standing in grey drizzle, exchanging glowers with passengers, sorry, customers.

The timetabling and punctuality issues that you refer to in your, quite frankly, spiky and provocative missive, are nothing out of the ordinary. The government makes us publish figures, and, well, we just go along with it. We keep getting paid as long as we do so, and so far, the arrangement seems to be working. What they actually mean is, well, in line with the average Australian approach to getting things done, that, it sort of works. A bit. Mostly. We try very hard to sell this to our French management team, who often fly over and drop in for a Lan-Choo and a Tim Tam, and I think that they are gradually getting their heads around it.

One thing I do take exception to in your communication, is that you appear to be a racist, of the blackest hue. Yes, many of our customer service frontline strike team are from an ESOL background, and are developing their English language skills on the job, however, you appear to be selectively applying this to certain instances. It is natural that when under threat they may retreat into their most familiar idiom, and appear to be of a sub-normal or infantile understanding, however they are perfectly suited to the tasks delegated to them. It is the customer service tasks that, repetitive as they are, are core to their reason for existence. However, even the most dedicated operatives will have lapses. It is unfortunate that you personally have seemed to happen on a relay of them having a bad day. It is also unfortunate that other passengers, sorry, customers have an identical experience at a similar time. We are working to get the customer/operative ‘bad hair day’ synchronicity ‘out of sequence’, but like a couple of dissimilar car blinker relays, they will always come back into sequence occasionally.

Apart from Singapore (which seems to be a whole society of anal-retentive obs-comp. weirdos) EVERY public transport system IN THE WHOLE WORLD has filthy toilets. It is a defining characteristic of the medium. I’m sure that you would feel uneasy in going into, for instance, the station conveniences at Narre Warren and NOT find cigarette burns on the toilet roll dispensers, and semen stains from mistimed and poorly aimed attempts at copulation or auto-erotic satisfaction. So just back off on the shit stains issue, OK? If in fact you did make mention of it. But if you didn’t, don’t. OK? Right. Remember, we know where you live, and we’re still enough part of the government (just) that we can have our contacts at the State Law and Order Unit come and pay you a visit at 4 in the morning. They won’t knock, and you may have to call a locksmith and a glazier afterwards, Don’t say you weren’t warned.

On a lighter note, we are happy to announce that we are “gettin’ down with da homies”, to coin a phrase, and have introduced an “app” for the new “smart-phones” to tell people where to go, and how to get there, using “public transport”. It seems to have provoked much discussion, and has raised the profile of our ‘brand’ enormously. People are still getting where they need to go, so it must be working.

An initiative we are working on is introducing the “smiles per hour” ratings for our stations and trains. A pink smiley face sign will be telling you that people smile at each other where we operate, and that this is the best, surest and even the only way to get through the privations, tribulations, vicissitudes and upheavals that is a natural correlative of traveling with other people that you have not chosen to travel with. We carry everyone, and all their phobias and inadequacies, including your own lack of forbearance and good humour, if you will permit me to say, and scrubbing vomit off 30 year carpet in Hitachi trains is not how most of our customer service associates would choose to spend their time, if they had their druthers.

So, in conclusion, sir – we know your name, we know your reputation, and we will be watching you very closely from now on. We are always open to suggestions as to how we can improve our service and product to the consumer. We have a comprehensive and compendious catalogue of suggestions, and we can cross-match every new whinge and whine with those previous going back to the 1970s. We are well aware of every problem inherited from the previous administration of the transport system in this city, and the cesspool of such, whilst not being drained, is at least being flushed through with complaints such as yours. One hopes that it is not so large, nor so misshapen, as to get stuck further on in the process of complaint management.

Yours, E. Wasserschiet

Complaints Management Division, Section G-2-B

Your Train People

This is a good time to thank everyone who’s emailed, messaged or commented on the blog (or the Facebook page), or reminded me I owe a cafe money, since I began having Haught Feelings a couple of months ago.

Keep the correspondence coming.

Haught fact of the day:

I once saw a banana drop onto the ground from the trouser leg of a man walking down Swanston Street. When he realised that several people had witnessed the event he ran away very fast. If it had been a cartoon – and it nearly was – he would have left a him-shaped cloud of dust.