23 February, 2009


Playing by the rules in the Multiculture (3)

Perhaps there's some kind of fare evasion clampdown going on at the moment. You go for months without seeing anybody checking tickets, then all of sudden you can scarcely squeeze onto the trains because every one's jam-packed full of coppers and REOs. As it says in the Bible (Unauthorized Version, Revelation 0:1)
Verily thou may'st wait even unto the End of the World itself for an Horseman of the Apocalypse.

And then four of the Buggers come along at once.
Anyway, here's another, probably the final, round-up of enforcement activity I have seen in the last week.

1. Bus, South East London. The top-deck was surprisingly empty, even for mid afternoon, with the few passengers huddled towards the front of the compartment. At the back of the bus was an extremely disgruntled gentleman of indeterminately mixed ethnic provenance being interviewed at length by a ticket inspector. Four (four!) PCSOs were watching proceedings from a safe distance near the stairs. I had obviously arrived after the main performance but it was clearly serious. The disgruntled gentleman's Oyster card was double-checked, particulars were taken, reports were prepared.

He'd obviously kicked off a bit when he'd been caught. I don't really understand that reaction. If you are caught banged to rights, surely the best policy is meek co-operation, not denial and confrontation. Still, there you go.

2. National Rail station, SE London. 4 coppers -- real ones this time; I didn't notice whether they were Met or BTP -- and a couple of REOs milling around beyond the gateline. Haul: one Black teenage youth being interviewed by an REO and, separately, two Black teenage girls being interviewed by a WPC (do they still call them that?). More interestingly, a member of our extensive Nigerian community, a man in his forties, was engaged in animated conversation with a policeman. I may be wrong -- I often am -- but I got the impression he was intervening on behalf of the kids. And judging from the copper's expression, he was going the right way about getting his collar felt. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. The arrogance, presumption of entitlement and willingness to cry "racism!" at any and every opportunity is one of the less endearing characteristics of rather too many of our West African guests.

3. Same National Rail station on another day. More REOs and BTP plods than you can shake a stick at. I wouldn't recommend actually shaking a stick at a public official, though. It's almost certainly a Public Order Act offence, punishable by transportation for life to North Peckham. Haul: one young male, teens or early twenties, probably UK-born Chinese; one White male teenager. Finally, two further White teenagers, one male, one female. As the latter pair were also being frisked by police officers, possibly something more serious than ticketless travel was in the offing.

Well that was exciting. I'm off for a lie-down.

They were also at it on the gate of the SouthWest train station I used this morning.A couple of REOs, assisted by 2 v green looking PCSOs, processing 2 late teen/20 something black males. I assume they got on at Vauxhall or Clapham Junction, as Waterloo mainline is now totally barriered off- except for when the crush of arriving passengers is too much for elfnsafety.

At Paddington they have installed ticket machines where once there were human venders. They are easier to understand.

On Saturday after tapping out my pin and waiting for the tickets to drop, an elderly-looking, West-African-looking-sounding woman gave me a friendly-sounding grunt whilst tapping on a vacant machine. She wanted help, I guessed.

"How many passengers?"
She pointed to herself & I touched the appropriate screen button.
"Where to?"
"Reading it is."
She hand me her mobile, "Tok to ma sistah."
Her sister talks softly. This is a first for me. I do hear her say something about a Travahcar.
"Do you have a travel-card?"
The phone call goes nowhere. I hand the phone back to her and touch the timed-out screen on 1 passenger for Reading again.
"Travahcar!" She barks.
"Which one?" (there is a choice of about 6)
"Which wa?" She quizzer her sister.
"Jus the norma wan" she advises me.
I wasn't about to play inspector and ask to see this 'normal' travel card, and instead made my excuses about the imminent departure of my coach to Slough and left her to it.

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