Back when I was an undergrad, the Maths department’s interface with the students was a little man universally known as “The Lightning”. (The Only-Begotten Children’s Mother reported how shocked she was when she many years later found out he actually had a perfectly normal name as well.) The reason for this sobriquet was soon made amply clear. Picture a queue of perhaps 300 students snaking down the stairwell outside the student office of the Maths dept, all out to buy the necessary textbook for the Analysis course starting that day. Eventually you get to the front desk and The Lightning curiously asks what you want. You declare that you wish to buy Funktioner av en variabel, textbook and exercises. “Oh!” quethes The Lightning and shuffles off to the book shelf at the back of the room, picks up the two books, returns to the desk, takes your money, counts out change and carefully makes an annotation in his cash ledger that he has sold Funktioner av en variabel, copies: 1, and exercises, copies: 1, @ 180 SEK. Then he raises his head, looks at the next person in the queue and inquires what he might be there for. Repeat for all students, repeat for all courses.
The Lightning eventually shuffled off this mortal coil, but I must now have run into his nephew: Honeybuns and I are preparing for a train trip again, and with the help of Die Bahn I had prepared an itinerary with all stops and connections and just needed to make the bookings. Unfortunately international travel cannot be booked on the Web, and I’ve found it impractical to do over the phone, so down I went to the Central Station to handle it in person. When I got to the ticket counter, I laid out my papers and explained the route. The gentleman behind the desk then had to look up each leg and make seat reservations and it went something like this:
Me: “…and from there we continue to Avignon, with the 18:14 connection…”
“Which day was this?”
“The same day.”
Clicks and then searches the keyboard.
Me, being helpful: “That’s A V I G N O&hellip”
“Wait, wait. A?”
Me, timing the letters with his hesitant single-finger typing: “A…V…I…G…N…O…N…”
“And this was when?”
“Right, there it is. OK, wait a bit.” He clicks and then pads off to the other side of the office to the printer, retrieves a paper and puts it on the counter. “OK, now I have the train number, I’ll see if I can make a reservation…” More hunting and pecking. “Yes! It went OK.”
“Right. In Avignon we change to the 19:59 service to Aix-en-Provence…”
“Wait, wait.” Refocusses on the screen. “Which day was this?”
“Still the same day…”
“And where to?”
“Aix-en-Provence, that’s A…I…X&hellip” Etc, etc, with an unhurried excursion to the printer for each step of the way.
An hour and a half later I finally had the thick sheaf of tickets and had also missed the modelling meeting I had planned to attend. I don’t think it should be necessary for RyanAir to go into train travel to make it more efficient than that.